To mark a recent, momentous milestone, I received a darling book titled “Letters to My Grandchild.” It is full of prompts, one of which is to write about the greatest advice anyone ever gave me.
This lover of words would find it nearly impossible to distill the reams of advice I have garnered in my eventful life into just one, superlative tidbit. As evidence, I was recently admonished that people of my generation just go on and on, rather than delivering the succinct bullet point the young so desire.
Sobering it is, to be reassigned position in the midst of what I thought was a scintillating story. Booted from the solid certainty that I was affiliated with the trend-setting, war-protesting, original hippie “boomers,” I was shocked to hear that I belonged in a far less sexy category: “old.”
From this vantage point, I had the perfect opening to repeat the following advice: Respect one’s elders.
Interpersonally, learning that one is not the center of the universe is a tedious though necessary lesson. An era that emphasizes selfies over substance and tweets over intellectual discourse makes practicing respect a challenge—but the evidence that this value smooths life’s paths quickly will become apparent.
Aimed inward, practicing respect nurtures self-esteem, healthful behaviors, and as time goes on, the cultivation of that rapidly declining quality: dignity.
I have been thinking about dignity a lot lately. Musing about why British society, BBC television series, and high tea appeal to me, I have concluded that when “everything” is acceptable, eventually people become provoked and overdone. Nurturing through common practices a sense of calm feeds one’s personal reserve of patience. Patience in turn inhibits reactivity, which may be forgivable in a toddler but quite unpleasant in adults.
Cultivating the quality of respect requires more than a rule, advanced age, or status, and it’s not about always being right. Respect is a work in progress. Great things often are. (c)