Some cultures teach respect for the elderly. Older people are considered wise and are revered for their knowledge and respected for having lived a good life. Unfortunately, that is not the case in the United States–at least not to the degree it should be.
My husband is 71 years old, and the last year or two I’ve begun to notice a change in how he is treated by others when we are out in public. Frankly, it makes me very angry. He is the same sweetheart of a man he was two years ago, but is suddenly being treated like the most stupid man on the planet.
Today is a perfect example. We were out shopping for groceries for a church function. In order to keep within the budget, we had gone to three different grocery stores. We also ran two personal errands. By the time we finished, we were both hungry and stopped at Wienerschnitzel for lunch.
After ordering our food, I filled our soda cups while my husband collected napkins and condiments. He tried to pump mustard into the small cups provided, but the pump wouldn’t work. He summoned an employee and told her the mustard pump wasn’t working. She told him to “prime the pump a little,” to which he responded, “I did.” I was sitting at our table by this time, which was close enough for me to see the biggest and most sarcastic eye roll I’ve ever witnessed. Her eyes literally said, “Stupid old man!” I wanted to jump up and slap her. She grabbed the mustard and pumped it 5 or 6 times–receiving no mustard. I grinned. Her supervisor then pumped the mustard another 5 or 6 times–receiving no mustard. The mustard pump was eventually removed and either fixed or replaced.
I’m not sure what it is about an older person that says, “Kick me; I’m down.” Are there signs on their backs? Maybe it’s that their backs are a little hunched over from a lifetime of hard work? Maybe the hair is a little too gray for mixed company? Whatever it is, it certainly ticks off a whole lot of people in our society.
Let me tell you a little bit about the old people in this country. They grew up in a time when people cared about each other. They were taught to love their neighbors, respect their elders, work hard, provide for their families, be honest in all their dealings, serve their community and their country, love their spouses, and adore their children.
This particular “old man” walks two miles a day, serves his family, volunteers his services at church, mows not only his own lawns but often those of others, visits the sick, helps his wife with cooking and household chores, does 99 percent of the grocery shopping, and is always available to help out a friend, neighbor, or family member.
Young people: The next time you see an older person, be patient if they walk a little slow–they’ve earned the right to slow down. Be compassionate if they are hunched over–they got that way from hard work. Don’t fret the extra 20 seconds it takes them to swipe their card in the ATM machine–these things are new to them. Take a few seconds and throw them a smile–they’ve lived through things you can’t even begin to imagine. Remember that life is short and you will be old someday too–unless, of course, you make me mad enough to jump out of my chair in a fast food restaurant and take you down for being rude and unkind to the person I love more than life itself.
To the employee at Wienerschnitzel: Be grateful I move slower than I did five years ago before two broken ankles, or you probably would be nursing a black eye this evening.