By Jim Slagle, Associate Editor
Most of us respect our elders, as we are taught to do. Cherishing senior citizens is a value Americans share with people and cultures from around the world. It is appropriate that we do so, but also appropriate that we occasionally take time to examine some of the reasons why the world celebrates seniors.
By and large, seniors built the constructed world we live in. Virtually everything human-made in our physical environment began with our forebears: towns, transportation, schools, communications, parks, arenas, stores, and more. We utilize, maintain and amplify these gifts from the past while owing much gratitude to the seniors that gave them to us.
It’s not just the planners, engineers and laborers that built the roads and bridges we take for granted. Our seniors paid for these developments through decades of taxes and tolls and inconveniences. Thank a senior when motoring to work or shopping center. And don’t forget to acknowledge the ones that selflessly fed and cared for the workers that made these wonders possible.
Many of the trees that enhance our communities were planted by seniors. It takes decades to grow a mature tree, so the green leafy giants you appreciate today were planted, watered and tended by an older generation. Make an effort to ask an older adult about a mature tree on his or her property. There’s probably a story to go with it.
Schools are not paid for by the student body. They are paid for by previous generations. Thank you, Elders. And it’s not just the school buildings, teachers and administrators that turn out class after educated class. Every cafeteria worker, janitor, librarian, bus driver and crossing guard contributed to scholastic success.
Parental love is one of the loveliest and strongest human emotions. It seems that parents will sacrifice anything to give their children the best – hopefully better than they had it. Their children grow, graduate, leave the nest. The parents become the seniors we are celebrating in this issue. We gratefully appreciate the job you did raising brilliant American citizens.
While we’re at it, let’s acknowledge the contributions of childless seniors and retired couples that sent their children to private or parochial school. Understanding that an educated populace is the bedrock of democracy, they paid school taxes for decades without sending a single child to public school.
Let’s also recognize every parent, grandparent and great grandparent – living and dead – that nurtured future generations. Grandparents deserve special thanks for nurturing the little ones. Almost everyone lucky enough to remember their grandparents has special memories involving food, holidays, pastimes, and good old-fashioned hugs from Grandma and Grandpa.
Some of our most venerated seniors devoted their lives to military service. Today and always, thank you for your service to our country. You make us free and proud. Furthermore, abundant thanks to the military families that sacrificed so much to enable their men and women to defend the beloved country.
Let’s not forget our faith leaders for guiding and informing our spiritual lives, and to activists that fought for our rights.
And finally, here’s a shout out to the artists, writers, musicians, athletes and coaches, performers, florists, graphic artists and other creative people that contribute joy and beauty to our lives. You are appreciated.
With any luck, we will all be senior citizens someday, worthy of being respected elders. In the meantime, let’s rejoice in the wonderful world that we inherited from the often unsung heroes: older adults.