Reading down through the list of suggested topics for this new issue of Shining Stars, the one pertaining to this topic caught my eye, as it is something that we frequently discuss. Sometimes, even if we see the benefits of something, it’s so hard to break away from the thinking of the majority of our society in certain areas. With different changes in my life, I have often resisted this and felt an inner struggle to do so; it’s really part of the American identity, and so I think it comes a little close to home. Most little people talk about “friends their own age” and it is ingrained in us from the time we are small. TV, books, magazines, school, people talking … these things all enforce the idea, whether intentionally or not.
I’d like to start by saying that it is a lot of fun to have some friends your age or at the same point in life; you can relate to each other well, go through things together, share and understand each other on one level. Of course that’s a good thing. On another level, though, if you can learn to relate to people in different seasons of life, different situations, and at a different age than you; your life can be so enriched by that. I believe God created a full range of ages to co-exist in society for a reason. We learn from each other, contribute different things to life, and broaden our perspective on things.
During seasons of life when there were no friends my own age, Mom always tried to encourage me to be thankful for the friends God had provided instead of feeling sorry about them not being “my age”. She encouraged me to work on getting to know someone who was more difficult to get to know, and perhaps someone that I myself would not initially “choose” as a friend; in order to take my focus off what age they were. These values were reinforced by the example of both my parents in their own life and also by the way they raised us. I am so very thankful today for the value of this lesson they passed down to me: my life has been made richer because of it.
Growing up, I was homeschooled from part-way through first grade on, and I do believe that homeschooling and the concept behind it was a major contributing factor to my opinions and views on friends. It’s funny to me that our culture has ingrained in us so completely that friends are connected to school. Most people think that if children don’t attend “regular” school, they won’t have any friends, and most are concerned these children won’t “socialize” or know how to function in society. What is more like “real life”? Living in a world where you are surrounded by (almost) only people your same exact age, for a majority of about 42 weeks out of the year for 12 years, and then trying to fit back in to a broad range of ages? Or just spending pretty much your whole life living with people all ages on a continuing basis?
I have some really, really special friends around my own age. But throughout my life, some of the best friends I’ve had have also been little people, older people, and people between 5-15 years older than myself. When we take away that barrier that our society tacks on to the word “age”; a whole new world of opportunity, perspective, and life lessons are opened up to us. My Grandma on my mom’s side died of cancer when I was four years old. Every summer between then and when I was seventeen, Grandpa would come to live
with us, leaving in early or late fall to spend winters in Florida. He was a major part of my life, almost like a third parent figure to me. We were all so close to him. It would take too much space to go into how much love and time he put into his family and grandchildren, and how much I loved, respected, and looked up to him. By the time I was eighteen, all four of my grandparents were gone; my two grandfathers died suddenly several months apart the same year. In the past almost–ten years since that time, I have (and we all have) felt the great void that not having this element of family around, brings to immediate and extended family times both. My dad’s only aunt (age 93!) is still here with us and we enjoy every priceless moment God allows us to have with her.
God designed older people to be a functioning part of families; not discarded, cast aside, or thought of as somehow “useless” as is so often the case today. When they grow helpless, it is our opportunity to show our appreciation and respect for all they handed down to us by trying in part to give back to them some of the care they gave that enabled us in part to be here today. One of our neighbors that lived on the street we grew up on, was 101. Visiting with her was a real highlight as she had so much wisdom to offer and memories to share of a time I do not remember. It gives us more of an appreciation for the past when we have a friend’s personal memories of them shared with us.
Little people bring an element, of fun, joy, and laughter that is missing when they are not around. They can lighten a tense situation, break the ice in an awkward moment, make you laugh when you’re feeling down, and make the world, at least for a few moments, simple again, as seen through their eyes. As well as being extremely perceptive and offering uncomplicated insight, they accept you as you are, and keep you on your toes as you realize how closely they’re observing your every move. ?
When we are single, we can help out those friends who are married, offering time they no longer have to spare and at the same time learning valuable lessons from their experience of what to (and what not to!) do, and take into a marriage, if that day should ever come for us.
We can gain from people who have experienced things we have not yet gone through, from their testimonies of God’s grace and what He has worked in their lives. We can gain wisdom from what they share with us.
For those friends who are going through the in- between ages at a crossroads stage of life, asking questions, and seeking a little understanding or advice; we can remember being there, and offer things God taught us at those points. We can relate some of our experiences that apply or are appropriate, and give a little advice. When our main goal in friendship is to be a good friend ourselves and also to serve Christ by serving others, making an effort to get to know people of every age offers more doors of opportunity for us. We need each other for advice, encouragement, and support. “Maturity” is often misused and has a lot more to do with experiences we go through, our spiritual state and our relationship with God, rather than what age we are.