Forever young


Teaching and Learning and Caring Blog

EL PASO – My roommate from college thinks only people our age (65 this year) are interesting.  She is locked into the cohort of early baby boomers, with only a couple of year’s latitude. I disagree with her. We have had this argument before. I think it is narrow and rigid to think that only people who have shared certain events at certain times have something to offer. Yes, we were alive and know where we were when Sputnik went up and when John F. Kennedy was shot, but how many times does that come up in conversation?

Others seem to have geographical preferences. If you didn’t grow up in New York City, in southern California, etc… Then you probably aren’t very interesting. Where does familiarity end and snobbishness begin? Yes, we are age segregated in classrooms through high school. (There probably aren’t any one-room school houses left.) Private schools ensure we attend school with only those of the same sex or religion or IQ or interests as our own, and public schools, though ostensibly integrated are often comprised of students from the same socioeconomic backgrounds via neighborhood segregation.

I get it.  We are most comfortable with our “own kind.” Sounds not so good, right? Well, there you have it. It isn’t so good. “They,” whomever “they” are, are not all alike. They don’t look alike or think alike, and they may be more like you than a member of your own family.

Try this little thought experiment. (Einstein was fond of thought experiments.) You see a dozen cows grazing on the side of the road as you drive by. You don’t know much about cows, even what breed they are. They are just cows. Now imagine you are a small farmer and these are your dairy cows, and you have to round them up and milk them every day. Some of them are eager and willing, others not so much. You have given them each a name that corresponds to some aspect of their personality. (Bossy is a favorite name for cows.) And by naming them, you have agreed to recognize them individually. This experiment gets more difficult as you include non-mammalian species of animals, but it may be instructive and humbling to try.

So, I will dispense with philosophizing and just say I like a lot of people who are different from me. And I especially like young people. Maybe my time as a parent and a teacher has taught me to appreciate the sensibilities of those who have not accumulated so much experience as to have become jaded or rigid, of those souls whose aspirations and observations are every bit as important as my own. And every bit as interesting, in my opinion. Young people usually give everyone an equal chance, offer respect at least until they know it will not be reciprocated.

For example, I am going to introduce you to a seventh grader who is a Facebook friend. I know his mother. Today we shall call him Juan Waffle Waffle. Here is a wall photo that he likes and has posted.

Is this something you would predict that a sixth grader would even notice, much less post? I didn’t think so. Exhibit two is a post he wrote on a friend’s wall that touches on the insecurity that some people instill in us: “El vato que me dejó abajo sin decir nada (the guy that put me down without saying anything).” He raises questions about poverty and hunger, about censorship, and other serious things. Juan Waffle Waffle is also a joker and posts silly things, just like most of us who have Facebook, unlike quite a few people my age. I will leave you with exhibit three: “El Facebook es como tu refrigerador, siempre lo abres pero nunca hay nada. (Facebook is like your refrigerator; you keep opening it but there’s nothing in there.)”

Juan Waffle Waffle, my hope for you, and for all of us of any age, can best be expressed in a song by Joan Baez, Forever Young. Here are just a few lines from it: “May you build a ladder to the stars and climb on every rung, and may you stay forever young … May you always know the truth and see the light surrounding you … May your heart always be joyful, may your song always be sung, and may you stay forever young.”

3 thoughts on “Forever young

  1. Great little essay, Cheryl. I love it and I hope your friend, Juan, continues to write and think and post and relish the life around him, as we all should. My best to you, my friend!

  2. I am proud to know Juan and he is definitely extraordinary ( I am 45) and he could prove many theories not only this one. For few people like waffle waffle I believe this world will be getting better I believe in the power of one person to change the world

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