Last summer, we arrived at Mount Rushmore a few weeks before my designated job was open, so they put me to work in the parking lot.
Most of the time, I was partnered with Mita and Claudia, two students from Taiwan (many international workers, particularly those from Asia, adopt Anglo names to make it easier for us). I loved visiting with these two ladies.
I worked the crosswalk, sending RVs and other large vehicles to them to park. Periodically, one of them would relieve me for a break and they always insisted I take one. (I quickly convinced them I would not walk to the office for my break because that would mean climbing the hill again; they seemed to understand.)
One day, when Claudia ordered me to the shade for a rest, I said, “You take good care of me.”
“That’s because you’re old,” she said without missing a beat, “like my grandfather.”
Yep, I thought, at some 40 years her senior, that’s likely true. Frankly, I was pleased, even honored, by her words.
My wife commented this weekend about how most of the international students treat us. It’s with a level of respect – as elders – that we extended older folks when we were younger. Leah even pushed the point a bit further, suggesting that American youth don’t really do that anymore.
Is that true? I don’t want that to be true.
It’s been my practice, through the years, to hold the door or to yield way to people. Maybe they’re older. Maybe they’re limited in their mobility. No offense, but I grew up holding doors for women, even young women.
As I’ve reached senior status, I’ve been more willing to let a younger person extend me the same courtesy, not because I need it but to give them the opportunity to display respect for an elder.
Many do, for sure, but I’m afraid an even larger number do not. They will rush through the door in front of me, leaving it to shut in my face, or they’ll walk shoulder-to-shoulder-to-shoulder down a sidewalk, forcing us onto the grass.
It does me no physical or even emotional harm, though my physical needs might certainly change in the future, but it could be a barometer of the decline of respect.
Whether you’re young, old or in between, what do you see?