Where have you been? Where are you going? And why?
Forgetting the Gandalfs
September 1, 2007Posted by on
Every morning he slowly departs his black truck, parked just to the side of the road, and makes his way to his spot on the corner. After fitting his orange reflector vest around both shoulders, the gray haired man is ready. Holding a wooden STOP sign in his dangling left hand, he looks up to greet the first to approach the four way stop. Each morning I drive up from behind him. As my car brakes (because the real stop sign in the ground commands me), I can’t help but look his way. He smiles and waves, just as he does to other cars that pass. He looks happy. Maybe he is. I hate it.
I don’t know his situation, and it’s probably very wrong for me to judge him. But each time I see his hunched body, the orange vest marked “Pedestrian Crossing” hanging on him, and his gray hair shining in the morning sun, I get sad and angry. Essentially, this is what our culture offers a man in the late stages of his life: a chance to wave to morning commuters. In such a season of life when a man should be giving back, counseling, and directing those less experienced in life, we stick him on the dusty shelf and attempt to make him feel purposeful (or we smile at him while he plays golf). And all the while we are thinking, “Move over, old fella, let the young guns have a shot at running this world.”
I long (and the culture does too, though they don’t know it) for a society like the one exemplified in The Last of the Mohicans. Nathaniel, the hero of the drama, has just been forced to allow the beauty of the film, Cora, to be taken captive by the evil Magua. Magua and the Native Americans he is with return to their village with Cora, her sister, and a British general. Before any decision can be made on their lives (Magua would kill all three if up to him), the tribe’s wise man must be consulted. The whole village gathers around him, eagerly anticipating his powerful opinion.
It would be exceptionally better to grow up in a society such as this, where age is valued and each gray hair represents a sliver of wisdom. To know that your domain and influence will only increase as your hair loses color. Instead, culture tells us that if we are not retired and on the golf course by 55 or 60, then we should get out of the way so the slick newcomers can run things. I can’t imagine the guidance and wisdom we have missed out on by grooming the elderly to wave at the important drivers on their way to work where they will make a valuable contribution to the world.
The glory of young men is their strength,
And the honor of old men is their gray hair. -Proverbs 20:29