Letters to the Young and Old

Old people.

Be patient with young people. Remember what it felt like to be young, what it felt like to see and recognise injustice for the first time. Remind yourself of your faded passion, your need to make things right, to change the failed system and stand up for those who couldn’t fight for themselves.

Progress requires energy and motivation, the qualities of youth. They will agitate, protest, plan and revolt, they will put themselves in harm’s way, they will get angry and righteous.

Be kind, especially when it feels like they’re not.

You have the advantage. You have seen the world through their eyes, but they haven’t looked through yours. They have no idea of the lessons that life will teach them, no idea how their dreams will be crushed, their ideals will be compromised, their passion will be smothered and many of them will disown their youthful selves by the time they have their own kids.

But in this moment they fight for a better future, one that might seem unnecessary and annoying to you now but it could make the world a little kinder and a little more accepting of people who are currently shunned, misunderstood and marginalized. They will fight to extend the life of the planet, to save its resources and end its wars.

They drive you crazy just as you drove your parents and grandparents crazy. It’s the way it always goes.

Young people.

Be patient with the old. They have been worn down by life, disappointment, lost dreams and compromised ideals. They have come to understand the human condition in ways that you have not, they have learned tough lessons that still lie in your future. As they have aged, they have become less capable of accommodating change, less flexible with new ways of looking at life, at identity, at rights and justice.
There is however wisdom and experience that older people have to share, you must have the wisdom to listen for it and access it while seeing through the attitudes and emotions that might obscure its value.

They had their lessons when they were young, they absorbed a worldview that has now evolved and will continue to evolve even as you age and become advocates of your own era.

Try to be kind and remember that one day you will be asking for these same kindnesses from the next generation of young idealists and freedom fighters.

Take heart in the fact that the young are usually on the right side of history, young people are advancing the human race and offering hope where many older people have become tired and cynical and have settled for their lot.

This too is the natural state of things, and it’s one of the truths of our humanity.

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peter coombs

peter coombs

Spewing an endless stream of stupid questions into the ether.