Saturday, April 19, 2008

Respect for Elders

In Chinese and most Eastern cultures, respect for elders must be one of the most fundamental lessons a child is taught from a very early age. Respect towards elders or any person, as a matter of fact is about honoring or holding in esteem an individual. It implies regarding an individual as a person of value and virtue. Throughout history, age has always been equated with wisdom, knowledge and experience. However, the world is changing and traditions and customs are changing with it. Today we live in a bubble of youth and celebrity worship, where "you can't be too young or too thin." Old is out. Like garbage to be disposed of, seniors are exiled to the edges of society where they won't be seen, smelled or heard from. Sad but this seems to be the direction things are moving towards. Respect for elders is becoming a rare commodity these days, especially from the current younger generation.

I attended a family gathering recently. A boy of twelve, son of our host entered the room full of his uncles and aunts. This boy sat down in the midst of his seniors next to his father but offered not a word of greeting to any of his uncles or aunts. Without a word of appreciation he promptly started on a packet of tit-bits one of his aunts has brought for him. He offered none present a share of his snacks but started devouring his food in front of his elders. Upon finishing his snacks he shouted at the top of his voice to the maid who was in the kitchen to fetch him a drink. One of his aunts softly whispered in his ear that he should go to the kitchen himself and get his own drink. The boys did not take too kindly to the advice given. Instead he glared at his aunt with a look that clearly said, “this is the way we behave in this house, if my parents do not mind, why should you? This is none of your business anyway”

Children often behave the way adults do. They learn by examples set by their parents. The way parents address the servants, is the way their children will address them too. While your servant is hired by you and you have every right to give them orders the way you want, realize that they are still elders for your children. When you ill-treat or talk with disrespect to your servant, your child will do the same thing.

One must always bear in mind, “whatever goes around comes around”. One thing I am extremely proud of, I cannot remember that throughout my childhood, until the days my parents left us, did I once talked back to them with disrespect. Things have certainly changed, for the better? I doubt it.

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