A sweet young thing came up to me at the mall a few days ago. She gave me a dazzling smile and I thought: “Wow, the old guy still has it.” I blessed her with a smile in return. Then she asked me if I would like to buy some hair dye. She was selling some that would “cover up all my grey hair.” My smile went into auto mode and I said I was very happy with my grey hair, thank you.
The exchange reminded me that in today’s world (at least in ‘developed’ countries) aging is something that is not welcomed, something to be hidden. Maybe this is the result of millions spent on advertising by the producers of ‘anti-aging’ products. It is also a natural consequence of a techno-driven society where, for the first time, the young have easier access to abilities and knowledge than the old. (For the longest time I was a computer-phobe that hid his fear of computers under strident cries that I didn’t need PCs to function.)
Of course growing old has its less attractive features. As I look at my own parents struggling with ailments ranging from arthritis to congestive heart failure, I realize that growing old is not for wimps. The bible poignantly catalogues the diminishing of various human abilities that come with aging in Ecclesiastes 12: 1-8.
Yet the bible is also clear that the aged are to be honoured (Leviticus 19:32). And that the aged are sources of wisdom (1 Kings 12: 6-20). The unique contribution of the old is not their knowledge of the latest gadgets. The unique contribution of the old is their knowledge of the human heart.
Of course an old person is not necessarily a wise person. There are old fools as there are young fools. I believe wisdom finally is a gift from God. It comes to those who reflect upon life in the light of His Word. The older you are the more data you have to reflect on.
And while we are to be grateful for the blessings that technology has brought us, we are reminded daily that the deepest wounds of humankind come not from failures in technology but failures of the human spirit.
More than ever we need the input of wise and compassionate people to bear upon the horrendous problems that beset us.
I am not suggesting that the contributions of the young are any less important. The fact is we need the help of all – men and women, people of all races, the young and the old. In humility we are to welcome the unique contributions of all.
And that includes the old. They are not to be treated as superfluous to the debates that seek to shape the future of the world. Grey hair need not be hidden under hair dyes.
Instead we should seek the input of the old, especially those whose love and wisdom have been tested in the crucible of life.
They just might have more insight into the mind and heart of the God who is also called “The Ancient of Days” (Daniel 7: 9,13).