Old Men at the Gates
Way back in Biblical times the old men of the city would go every day to the city gates and there mediate disputes, give advise and otherwise counsel those who came for help. Their years of experience, knowledge of the local laws and understanding of human nature were all beneficial to inhabitants of the city. It also kept the courts from being over whelmed by penny ante suits. Today we seem to try our best to put our aged ones out of sight and out of mind. We consign them to nursing homes, assisted living facilities, etc. Anything to get them out of our hair. As we do so, we also lose the benefit of their wisdom gained by years of living.
As I was thinking of this I was reminded of the book, "Marley and Me". Only occasionally do we find someone who stumbles upon the gold mine of experience and wisdom locked in the minds of those with lots of "miles" on them.
This week I took time to watch the DVD "The New Karate Kid" starring Jackie Chan and Will Smith's son Jaden. Just as with the original movies starring Pat Morita and Ralph Machio, a young boy being tormented by bullies is rescued by an old, seedy looking Oriental who then teaches the boy not only the skills of Kung Fu, but also the wisdom that comes from age. These movies present a powerful case for mentoring.
During my life I have sought different mentors to give me wisdom and guidance. As a youth pastor, rather than go to conferences, I sometimes contacted a successful youth pastor who had more experience than me. With their permission, I traveled to their locale and followed them around for a week, observing what they did, and asking questions to understand the "why" behind their actions. I became a better youth pastor by doing this.
At other times, I contacted a pastor whose books and teaching had impacted my life, and went and spent a few days with him, again observing his actions and asking clarifying questions. These mentoring experiences, though brief, had a great impact on my life.
I've thought about opening a coffee shop called "The Gates" and inviting certain retired folks to come down and hang out with the clientele and just chat with them. Somehow we have to re-claim this reservoir of wisdom and experience. As older folks, we need to look for opportunities to pour our lives into those who are coming up after us. We desperately need to impart the wealth of experience that comes by living to the next generation. We need to get the old men back at the gates.