It’s time to step up. There are ways to improve the situation–ANY situation–instead of just enduring it when it’s become too ugly to endure. Those of us who have lived a significant number of years have been cowed into silence with the cultural assumption that we’re irrelevant. We seem to have accepted that we have no right to weigh on how our society presents itself to each other and the world. We need to ditch that rancid baloney and stand up. We were quite able to be civil in the past. We still know how and can lead the way–by offering ourselves as good examples of good people. As Ralph Waldo Emerson put it “The years teach much which the days never knew.”
We’ve been places. We’ve done things. We’ve solved a lot of problems. We know a lot more than we realize. And what we know can make a big difference in how well things go in this world–your personal one, the one that revolves around family and friends, and the big one. It’s starts with the courage to project your wisdom. To be visible to the world in living with kindness, tolerance, and the emotional acuity to see that arm flapping is usually not about the important things.
You may be shaking your head and muttering “She’s not talking about me.” Don’t be so sure. Each of us can live our own lives well and be an example. Each of us can say “I’m not going to argue”–and mean it. Each of us can be kind regardless of what’s going on around us. Each of us can be a beacon for civility.
Modeling wisdom does not come from sentences that start with “When I was your age….” or “Back in the day….”. In fact, it doesn’t start with words at all most of the time. We need to use our wisdom. To put it on display in how we live our own lives. To showcase it in getting the things we are involved in accomplished. By being strong when giving up would be a lot easier. By being patient when things are going off the rails and you want to scream. By being tolerant of rough edges and underdeveloped thinking. By offering a hand in friendship when you aren’t sure you should.
When you do use words, it’s not about “I know better than you.” Sometimes it will be a story of how NOT to do something, based on your own mistake. Some of those words will be things you’re surprised to hear yourself say. Some of it you are just waiting for the chance to share. And waiting and waiting and waiting. That’s when showing is far more effective than telling. If even one younger person sees how to do something better because of how you behaved, you have given the world a gift.
You can watch every relevant TED talk and participate in online forums day and night, but watching something handled well right there in front of you is a whole different learning experience. It’s far more potent. We can be the opportunities younger people need to learn civility. To learn how to solve a problem well. To learn how to evaluate information We knew how to do this before; we can show others now.
This isn’t a matter of telling others how to do things. This is a matter of SHOWING others how to do things with grace and ease. We need to LIVE as wise ones. Pass it on.