The Cult of Respect and Courtesy
Shown to an Octogenarian and
The Physically Challenged
Vernon M. Herron
Just a few days ago, I observed 83 years of God-given life on this earth. It was a day to be remembered. It was a time for reflection, recording and expression of gratitude. Reflection because of a recent popular circulating view that—“all old people should be killed and buried because of being a burden on society.” This shocking statement contended for a society of the young and restless; a point of view which contradicts the teaching of scripture “to honor” the aged and the African “griots” who taught reverence and respect for the same.
The word “cult” is a devotion to a person, idea or a thing. Add “respect” and “courtesy” to the definition and you will have a vivid picture of my daily experiences as both an octogenarian and as a physically challenged individual.
As I constantly strive to maintain personal independence in dress, driving and negotiation, I totally depend upon my two canes, chair lift and a push seat for walking, movements and achievements. The one thing which is always touchy and makes me want to cry, is the kindness and courtesy of the public in assistance even before being asked.
When the public sees me walking with “assistance,” they volunteer to share the walk way, open doors, offer to put packages and grocery in my car, teach their children the many acts of kindness, sharing concerns by e-mail while offering other acts of social and computer technology, always asking, “do you need help, sir? Or how may I help you?” One brother, John Frison and his sons, always meet me at the church’s entrance and accompany me to my seat while others form a line for greetings.
Still another group constantly engages me in conversation as if they are seeking words of wisdom from a sage or an octogenarian. I find myself constantly saying, “thank you.” But the most dramatic experience and fantastic story comes from and about a young man, named Lewis Brooks of Gaston County, NC, who was nurtured as a beloved male parishioner of mine, 59 years ago in my first pastoral charge. One birthday night, thinking that all of the celebration and telephone calls were done, I settled in my bed room chair for relaxation, prior to bedtime. (Here is where the unusual drama begins)
The phone rang and I answered. The caller identified himself as one who was blessed by my ministry years ago and he wanted to come and take me to a late night snack. I said, “oh no! I am relaxing and soon will be going to bed.” Just then, the door bell rang. I would not move, allowing a family member to answer the door while I continued the telephone conversation. The caller continued, “Well, since you won’t go for a night snack, I’ll come to you.” Not realizing that he was conversing with me on his cell phone, the next minute he entered my bedroom with a lighted candle and cake singing, “happy birthday” and wishing me a long life with happiness. What a surprise!!!!
But more than that, what an antithesis! Instead of hearing, “all old people should be killed and buried,” I experience respect and courtesy. May God continue to bless all who honor the aged with His “promise.” (Deut. 5:16 & Eph. 6:2)