Please do not treat that elderly lady with disdain because she can’t quite figure out how to scan her photos to make them into prints. She doesn’t know which buttons to push.
She doesn’t know how far she needs to sit back from the table or where to put her old memories she is wishing to scan. You didn’t tell her about the drawer, so no, she doesn’t know that there is a drawer to open and she doesn’t know the ins and outs of how this system works. And by the way, I’m still fumbling over here just trying to figure out this photo thing myself.
I saw that lady’s face when you verbally pushed her around. She felt so bad, so awful that she didn’t know what to do. She felt dumb, because she didn’t know there was a certain distance she had to sit from the Photo Machine (or whatever you call it). You didn’t have to, but you took her down and I could feel her confusion.
As soon as you walked away I let her know that she wasn’t to worry. I assured her that it is all very confusing. I let her know that not even I knew what I was doing. I put my hand on her shoulder and told her that it was OK. It was totally OK that she didn’t know how to scan her photos in Walmart.
In relief she said, “Oh, I feel much better now.”
And I get that you, as a Walmart employee, may have been having a rough day, a really rough one. I understand that there is way more to your story than I even know. But this isn’t about you, really. And it’s certainly not about me comforting the old lady.
This is about all of us and our lack of respect for the elderly. I was sad that this lady was made to feel dumb, because I am certain that this lady could have taught me a thing or two (or three!) about real life. I am frustrated that we (including myself, here) push around the elderly and roll our eyes, while we grit through their anecdotes, and blandly listen to their stories.
Because these people have led real lives. They have lived out stories, tragedies, and joys. They have gone before us. They have lived. And we sit over here just waiting for them to finish that 30-minute saga or we stomp around frustrated while we explain for the ONE-HUNDREDTH time how to send a text.
When I rested my hand on her shoulder and told the elderly lady that it was all OK, when I made normal conversation with her, and treated her as someone with valuable knowledge and worth, she brightened, relaxed, and let go.
And you know what this tells me?
That you and me and all of us young people have power. We have the power to show the elderly their worth. We have the power to build them up, listen to their stories, glean from their wisdom, and learn from their lives.
So when it comes to teaching the elderly about this totally awesome world of tech, this is what I want us to remember.
We have the privilege—the privilege—to teach them something! I call it a privilege, because they have lived whole lives with diverse experiences and yet, here we are with the opportunity to teach them something new! And that screams privilege.
So, you can look at it as a nuisance if you really want to, but I’d say you’re missing out.
Because, let me tell you something, the opportunity to teach someone who has lived so many more years than me is something I don’t get to do every day. It is something to be treasured. It is something to hold dear.
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