From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Hanging Out at the Country Store



When I worked at a little country store in my neighborhood for several years, my boss was about 80 years old. He worked every day, pretty darned hard for a guy his age, and he always had many ideas and plans for the future!

One day in the store, I listened to that old man have a heart-to-heart talk with a young fellow in the neighborhood who was at loose ends. (I'll call him Josh.) I don't know why Josh dropped out of high school, but he did. I can't imagine why his parents permitted him to drop out, but they did. Such a shame -- Josh was a good kid.

Josh had been hanging out a lot at the store, and he had become quite friendly with my boss.

As they talked that day, it was clear that he was unsure about what he was going to do next. I think his parents were pressuring him to get a job, and certainly if he wasn't going to school, that was the next logical step.

My boss advised him to think about going into the military where he could finish his education and perhaps make a career. That was good advice, but when you tell an l8-year-old to do something for 20 years, it sounds like an eternity to them. They can't imagine that at 38 they will be still young.

The conversation went on and my boss counseled Josh to open up to his parents and really discuss the things in his heart with them.

It was evident that my boss, an old man, truly cared about and wanted to help Josh, and that Josh accepted and appreciated the affection and concern.

During the next few years, my boss was able to give Josh some fatherly advice at times that Josh probably wouldn't have liked to hear from his real father.

As it turned out, Josh didn't enlist in the Army, but he did get a job at one of the factories. Now, seven or eight years later, he's married and has a child, he's working, and he seems to be doing all right. Maybe someday he'll get his GED. I don't think it would be too difficult for him.

My boss has passed away, but he worked almost until the day he died. For him, it was like Emily Dickenson wrote: "Because I could not stop for death, Death kindly stopped for me."

I remember his relationship with young Josh as an example of the important role that elders can play in the community.

2 comments:

Mark said...

Americans' attitudes towards old people generally leaves something to be desired. My brother has traveled to Japan on business. We have both had facial hair since we were able, but he has shaved and regrown his a few times. Before one trip to Japan he said he was growing his beard, which had turned gray by then, because the Japanese respected their elders. It was a good business ploy to appear older. Interesting contrast.

Genevieve said...

Very interesting, Mark. I do agree that our culture doesn't respect elders as much as some other cultures.

Sometimes, part of the problem is that young people perceive older folks as being very critical. Unfortunately, I hear this from my own children (young adults) about some senior members of our church.

When people reach out and make friendships across generations, everyone in the relationship benefits.

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.