This week marks the beginning of a new school year here on Sanibel. Here at the church our preschool reopens. Around the state public schools reopen. Youngsters will be heading to their classroom to learn new things and to reinforce old lessons.
Learning, of course, is a lifelong proposition. We can always learn something new; we can always deepen our awareness of the basic truths of life. And for that we are always dependent on those who have gone before us. As Hebrew scripture scholar Raymond Van Leeuwen writes: “None of us lives long enough to experience enough of God, [the] world and humanity to be adequately equipped without the wisdom of the past.” (Ibid, 62) Indeed, as has often been noted, being a good teacher means first being a good student.
But that said there does come a certain point in life where we are more often in the teacher’s role. As we grow older, as we mature, we have more to share with those who follow in our footsteps. That’s not always readily apparent. In this technologically dependent age of ours you may forget how much you know. Just because you can’t work an iPhone, just because you get lost on the internet, just because you think tweet is a sound a bird makes, that doesn’t mean you’ve got nothing to share!
“What all older people know,” writes Paul Theroux, “what had taken me almost sixty years to learn, is that an aged face is misleading . . . the old are not as frail as you think . . . for we have come to learn that the years have made us more . . . streetwise.” (Dark Star Safari, 198) Wise indeed is the admonition found in the book of Proverbs: “Listen children, to a father’s instruction, and be attentive that you may gain insight.” (4:1)
If you are young, if your father or mother, a grandparent even, is still living, don’t lose out on what they might have to teach you. For the day always comes when the door closes and the opportunity is lost. And if you are older, if you are a parent, a grandparent, an older aunt or uncle, an elderly friend or neighbor, remember you too are being offered an opportunity—an opportunity to share what you have learned over the years with the younger people in your life.