As a child, I lived with my parents and baby brother in a granny flat behind my grandparents house. This unorthodox living arrangement meant that I spent a lot of time with my grandparents, who built that small, one bedroom home by hand when they moved to Australia from war-torn Europe.
I have many fond memories, but one that stands out the most were those nights where my grandma would ‘walk’ me home after we’d spend hours cuddled up on the couch of the main house watching cartoons. We’d stop halfway, and she would crouch down to my height and have me look up at the night sky. The stars burning brightly, the air crisp. She would tell me to “wish upon a star” and recite star light, star bright – the first star I see tonight, I wish I may I wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight.
A little nursery rhyme we may have all heard recited at one time or another, but in this nursery rhyme would be one of my first ever life lessons from my elderly mentors. That the universe is infinite, and possibilities endless.
The lessons didn’t stop there. As trail blazers, the elderly among us know a thing or two about life. Its lessons, its challenges, its fortunes and its disappointments. They have seen and experienced it all. Even when we, as the young generation, stubbornly believe that they’re too old to understand our often trivial problems, shortcomings and personal struggles – forgetting that they too, were once young and endured struggle, suffered heartbreak, felt at one time or another that life wasn’t fair.
94% of Millennials agree that seniors have a lot of wisdom to share with the younger generation. Here are some of the lessons I learned from the older people in my life:
1. Love makes the world go ‘round
Love. From its highs and lows, to the pain of a heart broken and the dizzying euphoria of a blossoming romance. Together for over 50 years, my grandparents taught me the healing power that love has, even when it can turn to heartbreak.
Love for another, whether it’s your spouse or family or friends is what gives meaning to life. Relationships are the essence of life, and their lessons lead to our constant expansion. Even our heartbreaks offer us insight into the healing power we have within, the internal compass we possess leading us in the direction of something bigger and better.
If you do just one thing today, reach out to those you love. Surprise your partner with flowers, shout coffee for your best friend, visit your elderly family members while you can. Never be afraid of love or taking the risk that comes with loving someone. It will become your greatest legacy.
2. Meet your fears with faith
For us Millennials, most of our elderly relatives grew up facing adversity. Whether it was war, famine, poverty, or hardships, our elders teach us that having courage in the face of adversity requires having faith that things will get better.
My grandfather faced some horrific things in his lifetime. Vividly, I recall a story he told of when he worked as a slave labourer in a foreign country. It was mine work, and they would often spend hours underground covered in sooty dirt and relying on faulty equipment to get the job done.
He witnessed people dying, people crying out for their families back home, people being detained or held against their will. While in the midst of such helplessness, he always had faith. He prayed, he studied his Bible, he envisioned the light at the end of the tunnel. Eventually he found freedom here in Australia, surrounded by a large healthy and happy family and the proof that when things seem hard or even unbearable, faith will always be our life vest.
3. To laugh is to live
If there’s one thing our elders can teach us, it’s that laughter really is the best medicine.
As a girl and even now as a grown woman, it always makes me laugh when I see my grandma and her friends getting together. They have a combined age of over 200 but you would think, by their endless hoots of laughter and silliness, that they were schoolgirls trapped in older bodies.
Even though my grandma now struggles to walk and requires a walker to cover longer distances, she and her friends will make light of the fact and try to race each other, trolleys and walking sticks scooting the pavement.
Finding humour in the ordinariness of everyday life is a lesson we should strongly learn from. To not take life too seriously. How much joyous is life when we find the funny side to every situation?
4. You don’t have to have it all figured out
When we see our elders, we see the established part of them. The house they built or bought. The family they created. The accomplishment of years of hard work. But when you dig deeper, you often find that despite appearing like they had everything figured out, they often didn’t.
My grandparents didn’t plan to leave the countries they were born in. My grandma didn’t expect that she would one day meet the love of her life in a new country and build a life from scratch. She didn’t expect she would have the money or the means to support 5 children in a foreign land. Yet despite not having everything figured out, life worked out in the end.
While you can have an idea of where you’re heading or what you want to achieve, in the end, life is about crafting your own story and often this may mean letting go of the steering wheel and letting the river carry you downstream. Eventually, you will arrive safely onshore.
The older, the wiser. Our elders are the best mentors to seek guidance from when navigating the unpredictable waters of life. With age comes wisdom, and in this wisdom are some important life lessons that young people can take onboard. What better way to learn about the rapids of life than from those who truly lived it? Who have already walked that path that you are currently on and who are in the best position to let you know of all the important pit stops and obstacles and vista points along the way.