I am supposed to call the person by the title of uncle or aunt. However, in this instance a title does not 3convey respect. The title merely conveys tradition.
The same tradition says that if a person is more than ten years older than me and has a darker skin color, then it is all right to call the person by his or her name, with the implication that the person is not worthy of the same amount of respect because of the shade of their skin.
This is one of the reasons why I question the culture of my people. I do not reject this culture, because it is part of me and who I am. That does not mean that I have to accept everything blindly, because God gave me a mind to think with. I have to accept that everything I grew up with is part of me, and love all those parts. Only when I love everything about myself, do I become ready to change those parts. Everything I have experienced up to this point in my life has shaped me into the person I am, and that is something to be grateful for.
I now understand how far I got it wrong. Respect is not something that I can dole out to people based on my judgment. I now understand that respect is a way of acknowledging every other soul on this planet as a creation of God, regardless of their age or what they have achieved. Like me, they are here to achieve their own goals, but in a different way. Each one of us is here because we have something to learn about ourselves, and to help others learn about themselves. This is reflected in the greeting Namaste, which means 'the Divine in me recognizes the Divine in you'.
As we grow older, we become aware of the lessons that we have learnt. We become less self-absorbed and integrate those lessons into our daily life. We start to notice things about ourselves that we had previously taken for granted and we become humble.
We also notice things about our children and the people around us, and often it is not easy to hold back our advice on how they should live their life. This temptation results in a different kind of learning about ourselves. We become aware of our pain at seeing others suffer unnecessarily. We distance ourselves from their difficulties and feel frustrated because we can help but are not allowed to, or we step in and have to deal with the conflict that result because we help when help was not asked for.
I now understand that every person that is chronologically older than me has a gift of wisdom. They have in this life progressed further on their earth path than I have, and that gave them insights that can contribute to my path.
People contribute their insights in different ways. There are those that are wise and share their wisdom in a very gentle manner. They draw people to them. There are those that are irritated at themselves for having wasted an opportunity, and who do not understand that they can still choose different experiences and emotions until the day they leave this body. They push people away from them, and we learn from them how not to grow old. There are those that leave their body prematurely but not completely, and their loved ones have to deal with the consequences of dis-eases such as dementia and Alzheimer's. That is a part of the learning of the loved ones.
Then there are those people who ignore the dictates of society to retire at a particular age. Some people simply continue to work beyond that age and they retain their zest for life (noticed the 80-year-old lady who did a tandem parachute jump?). Other people go into a deep depression at retirement age, and that depression is either resolved by them leaving their bodies, or by them discovering that they have a free will and are able to make choices. They then start a new career and keep going, and forget that their bodies are supposed to dictate the course of their soul. They realize that their bodies are in fact a reflection of their souls, and they seem to grow younger rather than older.
I recently heard of a woman in a world philosophical movement for peace. She had a very active life and at the age of 94 still had no desire to slow down. When she left her body, her deputy was promoted – at the age of 92. These women understood that we are not our bodies, and that a failing body is no reason for the spirit to become dejected. A failing body is simply a reason to look after our bodies better.
Regardless of how people choose to grow old, they have a gift of wisdom for us. If we start to ignore them because they are old, we ignore something very precious. I often hear from people that they regret not having documented their parents' memoirs from the world wars or other historical periods in their lives. They have lost something precious.
It is now part of my truth that people have to be respected because of their age and also because they are God's creatures and part of me. It does not matter whether I call them by their name or by any title. What matters is that I love them unconditionally for the wisdom that they provide by their words as well as their actions.
My intention is to grow old like the woman in Jenny Joseph's poem When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
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