Learning from each other

Johan van Zyl, Gordon’s Bay

There are those folk who like to take elderly people to task for constantly rambling on about the old days.

I take it in my stride, because I know most of these banterings are part of humorous family conversation.

Maybe the thinking is along the lines of “…getting back at the old man, because he was so strict with us when we were small”?

I grant that it is a good thing the youth are thinking along other lines, because they are living under changed circumstances.

It explains the generation gap.

Does this mean the elderly have had their say and must now sit in the corner? Surely not.

The “preachings” of elderly people are usually well-founded, in that our seniors have the experience of a long life under different conditions.

This has taught us some lessons. We feel we have something important to say, and it explains why we often fear to tread a path the younger set are willing to rush into.

I believe we should not draw back because of what we perceive to be the lack of interest and enthusiasm from our children and grandchildren for the things of the past.

We should speak our mind honestly and with circumspection, and allow them to decide if they still want to learn from us.

I am grateful that my son and I are in the habit of engaging one another in robust conversation.

We sometimes disagree on certain issues (and have agreed to disagree), but because of the amicability of our discussions, we influence each another’s opinions, and subsequently we now both see certain issues from different perspectives.

These good results have occurred, in our case, on the level of father/son (parent/child).

It should be possible for grandparents/grandchildren too.

Higher up on the intersocial level of teacher/pupil it should hold true as well.

I recall often telling my students at the start of their first semester of training, that I was going to learn a lot from them.

After a few incredulous stares from some, I added that I hoped the feeling was mutual.

I did, in fact, learn from every engagement with students, and from my side I made sure they got their money’s worth.

It’s all about respectful communi-cation – setting aside your differences and working toward a higher goal. Once that respect goes away, things can get nasty.

Holding grudges, carrying baggage, throwing insults and harbouring resentment cannot hope to contribute to what the politicians like to call “a better life for all”.

The path towards that illustrious end starts in the home and carries on through school and beyond, in all walks of life.

It reaches into provincial and national council chambers, right through into our country’s Parliament.

Perhaps more of South Africa’s leaders should begin to learn from the people…?