My daughter and I went to see the movie Selma on Friday. The visceral nature of the production made the emotions leap from the screen into my nervous system. When the bomb went off in the church, killing innocent children, I jumped in my seat. When the State Trooper tracked down a young protester in a diner and shot him point-blank while another beat his grandfather, I covered my eyes in despair. When fleeing marchers were chased on horseback and slashed with whips and beaten with spiked clubs, I felt nauseous. When a young pastor from Boston was beaten and killed with bats and feet cloaked in hate, I cried. And when Martin Luther King, Jr. knelt in prayer for guidance on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, I prayed too.
Throughout the movie, I thought how true it is that we are not born with hate in our hearts. We don't go to the playground with distrust and fear in our souls. These are things we learn, and from where and whom do we learn them? If a heart is nourished in church with love and acceptance, shouldn't the lessons continue at home? Are any of us truly Christians if we leave that food for the soul on the sanctuary steps?
I don't have answers. But I do know that we are now doing our children a disservice in other ways as well. We foster a culture of youth amid a multi-billion dollar anti-aging industry. We teach that age is as toxic as any illness every time we fret and stew over becoming another year older. And in the center of the race to turn back the clock lies the fastest growing aging population in our nation's history; the demographic that our children and teens tend to shy away from on all but the most special occasions.
So the next time your child has the opportunity to spend time with an aging grandparent, neighbor or friend, nourish their hearts with an appreciation for all they will gain from that encounter. When they need to write an essay or a paper about an event in history, find someone who lived it and nourish their souls with the gift of wisdom. If they have a chance to put a smile on an older person's face, music back in their lives, or laughter in their day, nourish them with the motivation and gusto to do just that.
Our older population is not being destroyed by bombs, gunshots, or whips; but loneliness, depression, neglect, and being minimalized are powerful weapons, too. Whatever our hearts learn from birth becomes our behavior, so nourish your own and your family's hearts with love, acceptance, tolerance, and appreciation for the differences on the outside that are only a dim veil over our similarities inside. Nourish the hearts and souls in your home the way Martin Luther King, Jr. encouraged us to do. With love.