A few months ago I was speaking with an older friend of mine who remembers too vividly the humiliation he suffered because of a severe stutter during his adolescence and early young adult years. Although very bright, people often thought he was stupid because he had trouble getting his words out properly. Fortunately for him, his parents were able to the hire the services of the famous speech therapist Lionel Logue, who had helped King George VI to overcome his stammer. (Remember the recent film and book by the same name, The King’s Speech.) Logue assisted my friend over several years and eventually things turned around for him too. He went on to become a distinguished professor of education with a special interest in helping those in developing countries to reach their full human potential.
Discrimination in all its forms — whether based on race, colour, gender, religion, gender orientation or being differently abled, as in the case of a speech impediment — is horrible because it undermines the image of God in the lives of God’s children, preventing them from living into being all that God calls them to be.
But there is another more insidious form of discrimination that does not get talked about as much as it should: ageism. Bill Plotkin says that we live in “a patho-adolesecent culture”. He writes that it’s time we grow up.
Author and speaker Missy Buchanan says that “most of us believe that aging is an enemy, something we must battle with daily.” Sadly, this kind of thinking has infected our faith communities. Buchanan wants people to see how we can use the gifts that come with aging to help build the kin-dom of God. By obsessing about youth, our congregations deny many important gifts that accompany growing older: introspection, self-awareness, reflection, patience and wisdom, not-to-mention the valuable ability to look at things from a third-person perspective — all things that are crucial in a world bent on self-destruction through climate injustice or nuclear weapons.
So the next time you look in the mirror and moan about another wrinkle or a new grey hair, remember that these are the badges of honour of a full and long life, and a reminder to share your hard-earned wisdom with others!