A young teen recently remarked, “The Best thing about little kids is they get excited about everything.” I reflected for a moment, watching the crowd of preschoolers milling about the auditorium lobby minutes before the scheduled performance of a children’s concert.
Excitement radiated from these little folks like electricity. Wide-eyed, they approached the box office where I and my ten-year old helper were dispensing tickets. Personalities ranged from shy to extrovert. Some children stuck close to mom, watching the antics of others who chose to use the waiting time running circles around each other. But anticipation was tangible.
Young children react to situations with all the force of their emerging personalities–with enthusiasum and without reservation. When they are afraid, they are scared into hysterics and they try to flee–sometimes hiding behind a trusted and familiar adult. When they think something is funny, they can emit belly laughs that would put a clown to shame. And they invite us to join in the fun. When they fall in love with someone or somthing, their devotion knows no bounds–for a few minutes or hours. When they are hurt–emtionally or physically–their screams can be heard for long distances.
At the other end of life–the mature years or senior years as we sometimes call them–we react to situations much like the little folks described above. However, through the years, we have learned to control our emotions, to act more reserved–ladylike or gentlemanly. Many of us born during the Great Depression or during World War II grew up knowing that the world is a dangerous place where survival depends on watchfulness and caution. The old saying present during what we of that generation still refer to as The War goes like this:
Use it up
Wear it out
Make it do
Hence, the generation we now think of as elderly has grown up viewing life with cautious optimism. Unbridled joy, though it might be felt, is seldom espressed in the same way the group of little folks I watched at the children’s concert.
Is our inhibition a bad thing? Not necessarily. However, in order to avoid becoming mired in gloom as we age, it’s helpful to mingle with younger folks. Those of us with grandchildren or young relatives and friends get to watch as they grow from ebullient preschoolers or studious college students and adults finding their ways in the workforce. We get to mentor cominmg generations, listen to their plans and hopes. We get to encourage them in whatever endeavors they enter. And we get to laugh together, meeting the difficulties as well as the joys–living and loving together. That way we are much like our small friends in their love of life.
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