BEING AN ELDER
We are a youth obsessed people. Elders don’t count for much, rarely thought of as a resource. In the East and in the Southern hemisphere, there is a role for the elder; there is recognition that the elder has much to offer.
We do recognize what it is to mentor, and in a sense mentors are elders; they see the opportunity to pass on to the next generation wisdom and experience.
In the Adrian household there was a special day in the Christmas Season, New Year Day – it was sacrosanct, and required a command performance: bath, good clothes and manners. On that evening the best linen dressed the dining room table, the table was set with china and crystal and the sterling silver. The china, crystal and silver were a gift from Mom and Dad’s wedding.
The guest that evening was Mr. Frank Straus, the man who taught my father the trade and the man my father succeeded as foreman of the composing room. That evening, the dining room table was extended to its full length; the chairs surrounding were straight back, except the chair at the head of the table – the chair that had arms, Dad’s chair. That evening Mr. Straus sat in that chair and Dad sat on a straight back chair to his right.
Frank Straus was a mentor to Dad. Mentorship is the work of “generativity”: taking care of the next generation, investing in life and work that will outlive ourselves.
Dad was grateful; he needed to honor his “elder”. New Year’s evening was a symbol of the relationship between an elder and a younger person.
Dad was a mentor to younger people as time went on. Often on Saturday afternoon two or three students from the trade school would come with their portfolios of work. They would spread the work on the dining room table and Dad would talk with them about their work, he would encourage them and teach them about the trade.
The old are put on this earth to nurture the young.
Fr. Steve Adrian