By Russell WilliamsSome years ago while walking in Basseterre an elderly lady stopped me and thrust a phone in my hand and asked me to call a number for her, grumbling she said “this is what happens when you get into young people’s tings!”.
I was reminded of the encounter when earlier this week I had an encounter with a security guard at a coffee shop, again in Basseterre. The guard is very much in his senior years, but when his phone rang he coolly took his Blackberry from his pocket and began his conversation. He hadn’t finished when a very current reggae tune began to play and he promptly removed his Motorola Razr from the other pocket! I teased him and said he was very much up to date and “in tings” as we would say!
He later went on to tell me that during his shift he would open the door and greet the patrons as they come and go. “I don’t have to do it, but I think it makes people feel a way..” he said. He went on “just before you came I cleared the table where you’re sitting. People don’t want to come and have to be clearing tables before they sit down.”
This is something that I am sure many people, while not exactly overcome with emotion or even filled with a warm fuzzy feeling, can appreciate and understand. However, if you were to contrast the attitude of this old man, with that of many young people who may actually be employed to do the job of serving customers, clearing tables etc. there would be a significant difference. Too often as a customer you feel as though you’re somehow inconveniencing them and you are a bother coming between them and their conversations with their co-workers or friends or BB friends (BB is Blackberry for the uninitiated).
The encounter happened the very same week that I saw a headline, indicating that due to the global economic downturn that more and more grandparents were working while youth unemployment remained stubbornly high. When one considers the experience and appreciation most older people have for what the world requires in the workplace, given a choice between a youth who, thanks to texting and Instant messenger (IM) can scarcely hold a conversation the choice becomes a little unbalanced, and I haven’t even mentioned attitude!
Sadly, in all too many cases parents and certainly the schools have failed to prepare children and young people to engage in the world of work. Moreover there isn’t the interaction and respect there once was between older people and children or youths. The lack of interaction is denying young people a sense of perspective of what the world requires. Not so much “the when I was a lad” or “back in the day” rumination, but the mechanics of why things were done, how to handle relationships and situations.
The truth is for a small nation such as ours, where our people are our greatest asset, worthy of significant investment; we can’t afford to side-line anyone, regardless of their youth or age. We ought to be developing ways of identifying, developing and fully utilising the expertise our people possess, regardless of their age, family or political background.
I will end with a quote from Earha Kitt, while she wasn’t speaking of St. Kitts-Nevis, I think her words are pretty universal, “One of the problems with this country is that we’re wasting the elderly. But nature wastes nothing, so why isn’t their knowledge recycled into the children? To me there’s nothing more wonderful than an old person who loves children and wants to teach them.”