Monday, August 27, 2012

The Wiser

The older I get, the more I believe all those sayings about how wisdom comes with time.

How we are the sum of our experiences, and that the lessons life teaches us shape who we eventually become.

Or maybe I'm just getting old and I want to believe that there has to be something redeeming about it.

Get off my lawn.

I spent about a half hour talking shop with a really old farmer over the weekend.  One of the perks of living pretty close to the sticks is that we have things like gigantic tractor shows.

My oldest son was intrigued by the guy, and the longer I stood there I was too.  Then again, I have this thing for adorable little old men.  Always have.

One adopted me when I was pregnant and taking water aerobics classes.  True story.  Over the 8 weeks, we got to know each other.  He'd look out for me, and we'd go have lunch at a little coffee shop once in a while.  He was in the same profession as my father, which meant that we could talk about things that the vast majority of the population wouldn't have any reason to, like why denture cream shouldn't be necessary.

See, I told you that the majority of the population wouldn't care about that, probably including you.

I think he was just glad to share the pool with a female under the age of 70.

Anyway, I stood under a shade canopy last weekend with a really old farmer for a good long while.   Banjos playing in the background, cloggers and square dancers dancing away, I listened.  Just listened.

If there is one thing that I've learned about people it's that most older men just want to talk and share their stories.  They want someone to listen.  Someone to care.  Someone who can disregard the fact that they repeat themselves a lot.

I love it.

We can learn so much from those who've been around a while.

There is just something different about that generation, different than my generation.  Fundamentally.

They had to think outside the box, they had to be creative, they invented.  They knew the meaning of hard work...actual hard, physical work.  They used their hands.  They saw problems and just came up with solutions instead of copping out, saying it was too hard, too big, too complex.

This guy, who'd been told by his teachers that he wasn't smart enough, designed and built all his own haystackers.  With 2x4's and some brackets, rope and a horse, he figured out how to move massive bales of hay.  He and his brother, who he spent 40 years farming with, built their own houses.

Though there was nothing about this man that reminded me of my grandfather in any physical way, he made me think long and hard about the fact that my grandfather, as was the case with many of his co-workers, had no formal schooling in engineering.  No bachelor's degrees, no master's degrees, no doctorates.  And yet, they built the rockets and space shuttles.  They put a man on the moon.

They didn't have years of schooling to teach them how to solve these problems.  They just figured it out.

We live in a world now that attributes far too much to pieces of paper.  To formalities.  To the idea that if you sit in a classroom long enough you master the subject.   It's a fallacy.

All the education in the world won't help you find a vein in a patient's arm.  Won't teach you how to sell a car or a house or a company.   Won't teach you compassion for those who need it.  Won't give you the raw edge to forcefully advocate for a client in court.   It won't.  It might help, but it's not everything.

This man, and everything his generation stands for and stood for, should be a lesson to us all.

We can learn from their struggles and triumphs.  I'm always a little in awe of how they figured out how to build things like dams and bridges and aircraft carriers without the technology we possess today.  We need to steal a little from prior generations.

A piece of paper will never substitute for hard work and ingenuity.

We could use a little of both these days.


  1. Old dudes rule. For real. If we can quiet ourselves long enough to listen. Love this post. You rule for writing and experiencing it all.

    1. There is so much knowledge to be gained from them...we just have to be willing to listen. xoxo

  2. Props, girl. This was divinely inspired. My dad tells stories about the Westinghouse factory and the Ford plants when they built aircraft engines as teens for American fighter pilots.

    Paper attributes... Nice line there.

    Callouses rule.

    1. We are losing members of this amazing generation every day...if only more people understood how precious they are.

  3. This is why I just love you. We think so much alike (see, I actually just love myself...). I totally dig talking to old guys. That's where I end up at parties. I'm sure people think I'm just being "nice."

    1. I just love you too...well, let's face it....because we are awesome. ;)

  4. I can't quite imagine what the next generation of old guy stories are going to sound like. I don't believe they will be quite as interesting or inspiring. I hope I'm wrong.

  5. So many coountry songs come to mind


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