I recently had lunch in a room full of women who sport a great deal more grey hair and wrinkles than I. When counting birthdays, most of them have long since passed the umpteenth celebration of their 39th birthdays and are proud to declare their actual age. Seventy-nine, 83, 98 – however many birthdays have passed is an achievement and the next one is a goal.
This was not a lunch I wanted to attend. It was a monthly gathering and I had too many other tasks on my plate, but the coordinator had personally invited me to be there and to lead the opening prayer. Sigh. What’s a pastor to do?
Then, during the lunch, I found myself surrounded by women who began asking me questions. Extremely personal questions. Questions about my health and well-being. Questions that only my own mother should ask.
Then the advice began. It probably would have been endless if it hadn’t been for the fact that a speaker was scheduled for the event and time was limited. But, whereas I’m generally grumpy, resistant to unsolicited advice of any kind girl, I suddenly had an epiphany: these octogenarian and nonagenarian women might know a thing or two. These women who had walked the face of this planet for many moons, raised their children, helped to nurture grandchildren and great-grandchildren, women who have life skills beyond sticking leftovers in microwaves and who made soap before it was a fad, they know stuff. Important stuff.
Shortly afterward, something else occurred to me. These women want us to know this important stuff. While we’re busy Googling and downloading books into our Kindles, these women have a wealth of information and experience to share with us. They have knowledge stored in their heads and on yellowed sheets of paper stuffed into books, boxes, and cubbies of old desks. And we’re ignoring it. We’re turning our backs and closing our ears to brilliance. Because we always know better.
We need to listen to the mothers. We need to learn from the women around us who have so much to share. Yes, sometimes they’re overbearing and forthright. Sometimes they overwhelm us and make us shake our heads and want to talk back. But, when we’re no longer teenagers, we might need to learn to bite our tongues. We might need to realize that there’s a reason that they’re speaking – they care. And they know what they’re talking about.
When these women tell us to get our exercise and drink our water, we’d better listen. When they want to teach us how to knit or make pie crust or refinish that old piece of furniture, we should stop what we’re doing and grab hold of that teaching moment with gratitude. Because we won’t have those opportunities much longer. And soon, we will be the elders. We will be that teaching generation. The young faces will turn in our direction. We will need to reach into the deep recesses of our minds and our souls and find great wisdom to share. We’d better be ready.