This morning I was in Walmart where I waited in line for what I deemed "the oldest cashier in the world" to ring up the purchases of "the oldest customer in the world." They were chatting as the cashier took nearly 10 minutes to ring up about 10 items and another 10 minutes for the customer to pay and move on. I wanted to hurry them up but something told me to just be patient - that they deserved my respect and patience.
Maybe it was that fact that between the two of them they likely had 160 years of living on this Earth. Maybe it was the WWII Special Forces hat the customer was wearing. I couldn't help but wonder what he had experienced during the war.
While chatting about it with my good friend Greg Callahan, we talked about the fact that we seem to have more patience and respect for the elderly people than we do for the younger ones. Part of that is good, old-fashioned, home training but I couldn't help but remind him that it's partly because we identify more with the older ones than the younger ones these days....
But it's more than that. When I see elderly people like that I am reminded of my father (before he died) at the age of 91, and of my step-mother, who is 93. If I even begin to become impatient waiting for one of these "seasoned citizens" to finish up and move out of my way I remind myself of how I would want someone to treat my own family members in their senior years. Even if they're slow, I would want people to be patient with them, allow them their time and space and mistakes. I would want people to help them to the car if necessary and to just show them respect. If this is what I want for my own family members, how could I not do it myself?
Elderly citizens in their 80s and 90s (and above) have experienced so much. They have so much history inside them and more often than not they're willing to share if one just asks. Most seniors I know love to sit and talk and tell you about their past; what they did in life and their favorite memories. And there is so much we can learn by just listening.
The two gentlemen in the store this morning, even though they unwittingly slowed me down a little, enjoyed their conversation. When the customer walked away both men had smiles on their faces. And that put a smile on mine - despite my having to wait for them to finish.
I wanted to thank the elderly customer for his service and sacrifice to our country but there was another customer (a rather large customer) and his cart between us and I really didn't want to try getting past him nor interrupt their conversation. Maybe I'll see him again one day. (It's the only Walmart in the area.) And if I don't, knowing he served our country in one of the greatest wars in history is good enough for me.
As for the cashier - he checked me out in a friendly, slow, methodical manner. I had 7 items which he put in 5 different bags but he was friendly. And I said "Thank you, Sir," when I was finished. As I left the store there was another elderly gentleman collecting money for the Shriners fund. I had no cash whatsoever on me and told him so, and called him "Sir" as well.
I respect my elders. It's how I was raised. And in my 56 years of life, it's something I have learned to do on my own as well. No longer because I was taught it as a child but because as an adult who has experienced much in live myself, I understand that they deserve it. They are living history.
One of my comments on my post this morning was "I hope I live long enough to hold people up in the checkout lines." I just hope those people are as patient with me as I try to be with the elderly in my world.
May God bless each and every one of them... and you.