R-E-S-P-E-C-T, With Apologies To Aretha Franklin, Part I
“A test of a people is how it behaves toward the old. It is easy to love children. Even tyrants and dictators make a point of being fond of children. But the affection and care for the old, the incurable, the helpless are the true gold mines of a culture.” —Abraham Joshua Heschel
“Listen to your father who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old.” Proverbs 23:22 The Bible
I have a confession to make. It’s easier for me to be patient and sweet to an elder who is not my parent. When I worked with patients or clients I was with them for a brief time, at most an eight-hour shift and they were strangers. With my own parents 24/7, it’s harder.
Is this true for you? Maybe I am an anomaly. I am truly puzzled when I read FB posts of people describing enjoying “every minute of caring for my (mother, father, fill-in-the-bank).” Because I have to say there are moments I don’t enjoy. There are things that aren’t pleasant and aren’t fun. I wonder, “What’s wrong with me?”
My husband and I walked into a fast food restaurant. A group of seniors were ahead of us. They couldn’t figure out what to order, how to use the drink machine and generally milled about trying to find things. We stepped away so they could finish. A woman in the party noticed us waiting and apologized for being so slow. We said, “It’s fine, we live with elders. We’re used to it.” It was easy, no problem. If that had been my parents holding up the line, I’d have felt the need to rush them along, get them out-of-the-way. I can’t tell you why it’s different, I just know it is.
How can I be respectful, patient and kind, even in the middle of the night when I’m asked, “What are you doing here? Why aren’t you sleeping?”
“Um, because you rang the bell to call me?” (Insert sleepy, impatient tone, in my mind because I don’t say it aloud.)
The Expert’s Opinion
There are many ways we revere our elders, some cultural, some universal.
The NIH (National Institute of Health) did a study on how social workers show respect to elders. They came up with twelve forms of elder respect:
- Care/service respect (providing care and services for elders),
- Acquiescent respect (assenting, listening to elders),
- Consulting respect (seeking elders for advice),
- Precedent respect (providing services to elders first),
- Salutatory respect (greeting and saluting elders),
- Linguistic respect (using proper language in addressing to elders),
- Victual respect (serving drinks and foods of elders’ choice
- Gift respect (presenting gifts to elders),
- Presentational respect (holding proper manners before elders),
- Celebrative respect (celebrating elders’ birthdays),
- Spatial respect (furnish elders with comfortable seats), and
- Public respect (serving neighborhood elders and elders at large).
This is a long list. What does half of this stuff even mean? I wondered, “How does this apply to me; my situation?”
Tomorrow I’ll break it down. What parts do I think apply, what doesn’t? What do I do well, what areas need improvement? It will be a bit like doing a performance review. Yuck. I always hated doing those in the workplace and now I’m doing it voluntarily. The things I do for this blog…
What are your thoughts about elder respect? Is it easy for you to demonstrate respect to your parents? How about strangers?