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One way to instill hope into those coming along behind you is to get to know them better. That means we must be able to converse across generations. This can be difficult in an era when older people are not respected as they once were. In fact, they are often an object of ridicule. Not only that, but many older people don’t want to be old. They are doing everything they can do to cover the fact that they are old and many even try to act as young as they can. It is no wonder they are ridiculed. It seems silly.

Of course, we want to look as good as we can as we age. I’m not knocking that. But when we shed our spouses for much younger ones or try to dress like we are kids instead of the age we are, it can be downright unattractive.

If you are looking for hope during hard times, talk to people who have lived through more than one cycle of hard times.

We are often encouraged to get to know older people in order to find some wisdom…assuming we talk to the right older people!  But if you are like I was when I was younger, I sometimes ran aground when conversing with some of them. If they were on the quiet side and we didn’t easily come across common ground, I ran out of topics to talk about. Now that I’m an older person, there have even been times I have had the reverse problem with younger people.

Anyway, not long ago, I prepared a cheat sheet to prompt people who had trouble getting a conversation going. It would be helpful especially for younger people who wondered what life was like when we were growing up compared to now. I think it would lead to some very interesting conversations for sure.

This would especially hold true with family gatherings like holidays. It might lead to some more positive conversations than some we get into when we fall into our conversational ruts. It works for almost any age to ask, especially school aged children.  It’s a great substitute for everyone sitting around watching a screen and not interacting.

A few pointers for the older people…

Just a couple pointers for the older people passing on memories?

  • Try not to ramble too much. These younger people have short attention spans. Also, remember to be hopeful and encouraging as well as honest.
  • Don’t gloss over the fact that the hard times were hard. But the things that were hard for you may not be the same things that are hard for them.
  • Also be honest about the fact that you may have also be scared to death…if you were. They need to know that too!
  • If you had faith in GOD when you were going through hard times, say so and how it helped. If you didn’t, tell why it made things harder (if it did) and why. Sometimes we assume our kids and grandkids catch how our faith has fit into the picture but often it hasn’t been put into words as clearly as we thought. Use normal words, not churchy words. They don’t communicate as clearly as you may think.
  • If you must use churchy words, define the word simply. Instead of saying you had faith or hope in GOD, tell what you did or believed that helped. Did you pray or read from the Bible something that helped you? Did a friend talk to you and pray with you? Define the word hope/faith/redeemed, etc. if you are going to use them. That’s what I mean by being as specific as you can be in what you say.

These are the conversation starters:

  • What was your life like when you were my age? (where did you live, size of your house, leisure time, etc.)
  • Did you live all your life in the United States? If not, what other countries did you live in?
  • What kinds of things did you do in the evenings when you were growing up?
  •  What was the school like where you attended? (elementary, junior high/middle, high school, college? dress codes? other rules?)
  • What major historical events did you live through? (i.e. wars, Depressions, assassinations, etc.)
  •  What were your salaries at age __ doing _?_ job?
  • What was the cost of gas, groceries, etc. during certain stages of your life?
  •  What was Christmas like? (common Christmas presents when you were __ age?)

I remember how often my grandmother used to tell us stories of her growing up years. I found it so interesting as a child. These days, it seems very few people find that sort of thing interesting. They lived through illness, deaths, infertility, wars, and more… and survived. So can we…with GOD’s help.

Talking to older people who have lived a longer life than you is encouraging

Personally, I think you will find much more hope if you talk to older people during times like this. Many of them lived through the Depression or hard times after World War II when so many things were rationed. Many were just downright poor and lived through hard times during their lifetime and lived to triumph over those hard times. Listening to them talk about what happened will help you be encouraged.

Do you notice how many young people tend to commit suicide? I don’t pretend to limit the reasons to simply one. But I’m certain that one aspect is that many of them have not heard the stories of people who have survived hard times or they don’t believe they can. They don’t understand that hard times are simply part of a long life and part of what it means to persevere.

So think about some of these questions for the next family get together. Hand out the questions on paper for people to draw and make a game of it. You may be able to come up with even better questions. But ask away. You want to hear about your family history now while your family members are alive to tell you. A day is coming when they won’t be here to answer your questions about your history. Hearing the funny stories or the sad stories from their perspective is much better while you can hear it through their eyes.

Action step: Make a plan to ask one of your family members or an older friend about their life when they grew up during the next few weeks. You might even want to record it on a video or zoom.

O God, from my youth you have taught me,
    and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
 So even to old age and gray hairs,
    O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to another generation,
    your power to all those to come.

Psalm 71:17-18 ESV


**Taken from a post written 10/20/17.