The ‘wisdom of the elders’ has a huge impact on our lives and we need to recognise and honour the gifts that are passed down through generations. There is often ‘tacit knowledge’, information or ‘know how’ that cannot easily be articulated. It is absorbed through interaction within positive relationships.
Let me give you an example:
My mother’s family had little money but an abundance of love. She grew up being unaccustomed to wearing shoes as it wasn’t necessary on the farm – and her parents couldn’t easily afford shoes for the children. They went to school by horse-and-trap and if it rained too hard, they couldn’t cross the drifts, so had to stay at home. That generation also weathered ‘the great depression’ and ‘the war years’ so they were accustomed to ‘doing without’. They saved and made use of what they had. And this influenced their lives enormously and continues to do so. In addition, fostering positive attitudes enabled them to be creative and meet the challenges.
Let’s skip to the next generation: When I was a child my mother owned and ran a ‘tea-room’ and sold fruit and vegetables. The leftover fruit was carefully combined and cut into fruit salad which was sold to shoppers later in the day. The parts of vegetables that couldn’t be sold were put into the huge soup cauldron, combined with meat bones and became delicious, nutritious soup. On cold, dark winter mornings, my mother opened the shop at 6am and workers on their way to the 3 local factories brought in their empty ‘jam tins’ which she filled with her hot soup, charging them only a pittance.
Even now that she is 91 years of age, she constantly inspires me with her ingenuity and positive attitude. This year she gave beautifully wrapped Christmas gifts and from a distance I marvelled at how much effort she had gone to. But, when I came closer, I was even more surprised.
Have a careful look: she has used the slightly shiny advertising pages from the newspaper for wrapping. You’ll see the picture of ‘Koo’ brand peaches, cooking oil and dried beans. The ‘ribbon’ was ‘danger tape’ which had served its purpose on the pavement and had been left lying in the gutter. Of course she washed it and went to the trouble of making a range of different beautiful bows. (When I complimented her she responded ‘and it was such fun!’)
Below is an example of another bow:
Now in this current era, for many there is an ‘overabundance’ of material items. Through habit, some have become unnecessarily extravagant and wasteful. Complacency often destroys our ability to recognise, value and use our potential resources in the best possible way. So, we need to make a conscious effort to deal with all our resources more effectively.
From the story above there are many lessons to be learned. And these are significant in our personal, business, professional, organisational and community lives. Let’s reflect on a few questions:
- How can we use our resources more wisely?
- How can we be more creative in looking for new ways of using ‘old things’?
- In which ways can we be less wasteful and less extravagant?
- And how can we tap into ‘the wisdom of the elders’ in more deliberate and constructive ways?