I recently attended a conference for Christian moms. The speakers were amazing! The messages were on point. The theme was the importance of friendship among women. I went to the conference alone, because I don’t have many friends in real life, and the few I have couldn’t go to the conference with me.
So I didn’t know a single person there. That’s nothing new. I have gone to many places and events where I have not known anyone at all. But it’s never comfortable. I don’t think I will attend any more conferences alone.
I had a hard time finding a vacant seat at a table even though I was there early. A kind young lady noticed my predicament and called out to me, “Ma’am, do you need a place to sit?” Why yes I do. Thank you very much.
So I gratefully sat down. Ahh, now let the delightful fellowship and refreshing, inspirational words of the speakers flow over my thirsty, lonely soul.
We had a half hour before the first speaker, so we were supposed to get to know the people at our table. I turned to the girl to my left and tried to engage her in conversation. Everything she told me about herself I found truly fascinating. I got all excited and pulled out my phone to tell my family about the connections I was making at the conference. I was so excited and thought God had put me at the perfect table to meet someone I was supposed to connect with. But she didn’t return the sentiment. She was less than interested in talking to me any further. She looked away and talked to everyone but me for the rest of the time.
The table was full of young moms, probably in their late 20’s or early 30’s. They all seemed to hit it off famously. They all talked to each other and shared little glances and giggles throughout the talks. But not one of them looked at me to share a laugh or nod of agreement about something that was said. I felt excluded, maybe even a tiny bit ostracized.
One of the main topics that was addressed in the conference was the problem of loneliness in our culture. I didn’t feel lonely until I sat at that table being ignored by 10 other women.
I surmised that one cause of the distaste the girl to my left felt toward me may have been my age. I’m 55. That must seem old to her. She was shocked that I had and used the Marco Polo app. But far from being impressed, she seemed a bit annoyed that I used it.
I found out that she feels like she learns all that she needs to know from her peers. She watches other young moms who are doing so well and follows their example. She doesn’t feel that she needs any older women in her life to learn from.
I guess I was just lucky enough to sit next to an ageist. And the table seemed to be full of young moms who felt pretty much the same way.
Let me be clear about this. I did try to initiate conversation and interaction. I am an introvert, and I used to be shy. But I’m not anymore. I’m friendly, and doggone it, people like me! 😃
But there seemed to be a foregone conclusion among them that I didn’t have anything to offer. They treated me like a non-person. I hate being treated that way!
I didn’t expect to be worshipped or adored. Just a little common courtesy and acknowledgement of my presence would have been good enough for me. It was a distressing experience for me. And the result was that after a conference intended to inspire friendship and help to dispel loneliness, I felt more friendless, lonely, and unworthy of love or respect than I did before. And old!
So I hope that someone who may read this will think twice about how they treat their elders. Just because we are a few years older doesn’t mean that we have forgotten what it’s like to be young. We are not archaic. Many of us may know about Twitter and Instagram. I know you think Facebook is for old people, but those of us who use it are sharing wisdom and knowledge that you might actually benefit from. If you followed anyone besides celebrities and people your own age, you might find out that we are people, too. We deserve at least as much respect and honor as you give to younger people. You can take the time to get to know us and explore the possibility of friendship even if we have gray hair and wrinkles. You might even enjoy our humor and stories that we share.
Our ideas might seem outdated to you, and you may think that we’re wrong because times have changed, and we have been left in the dust. But as you get older yourself, you might start to see some things differently. Times have changed; technology has revolutionized our lives. But people still have the same basic needs. We all need to know that we’re loved. We all need to be understood. We all need someone to care about. We all need family of some sort. We all need people with different strengths, gifts, personalities, and life experiences to add to our lives.
Advances in technology have not changed the way people really are inside. The wisdom from the past may save your life some day. It might at least keep you from making mistakes that you will regret for the rest of your life. I would encourage you to listen to some older people, too, not just the people who are in the same stage of life as you are. Some of the more seasoned moms may have been through some very similar situations that you are going through, and they might be able to give you better advice than your age-mates, because they made it through the situation and found out what worked and what didn’t. They don’t just have theories or hunches. They have real life experience. You can learn from their experience – and their mistakes.
And I hope that some may find this post and decide to treat their elders with respect for their age instead of derision for their antiquated ways and ideas. Ages that seem old to you now will be getting younger and younger to you. Their ways that seem so out of step and old-fashioned and irrelevant to modern life may be ways that you adopt and learn to cherish as you and your children get older. You may decide that they knew something you didn’t know.
My experience at the conference was not an isolated incident. I have had similar experiences in other places and times. I was not old, but I was considered old by the majority of the people in these places. My age and experience were not respected. I was ignored and set aside.
I think it is a tragic mistake for young moms to only seek counsel from other moms their same age. No matter how smart and savvy a young woman is, experience will always trump untested theories and ideas that seem to be working at the moment.
My experience has taught me that I was way too prideful and arrogant when I was a young mom. I learned the hard way to ask for advice and help from people who had already been through similar experiences.
I know now that I should have been doing a lot more watching, listening, learning, and accepting help and advice from older women than talking to peers and reading and figuring out for myself what was best.
I hope that you will be smarter than I was and you will respect and honor and seek out the wisdom of older women. Especially those who are strong believers and who love God with their whole hearts. The time spent with them, the knowledge they share, and the support that they provide will be worth more to you than gold.
Don’t despise them because they’re old.