A piece of sunshine

Wisdom of the elderly

By Kim Ae-ran



Whether we are in our youth, middle age or older years, we are all aging ― and possibly growing wiser.


In "Aging: the fulfillment of life," written by Henri J.M. Nouwen and Walter J. Gaffney, there is a fable regarding the wisdom of the elderly.


Once upon a time, in a tribal village, there was a custom to kill the elderly. But one young man hid an old man to save him.


When the inhabitants had to erect a log cabin community building, they realized they didn't know much about wood and the structure might collapse due to their ineptitude. If so, it would be a great problem.


What should they do? They had killed all the elderly who had knowledge but it was time for them to listen to the wisdom of the elderly.


Then, the young man who had hid the old man brought him out. Fortunately, the village people could listen to his advice before building the cabin.


It is true that young people are filled with vitality, energy, new ideas and various talents, but somehow, they lack wisdom drawn from experience built up over many years.


Recently, I was collecting round pebbles to make a little foot acupressure field in the backyard of our chapel.


In the beginning, without thinking that white stones are artificial, I gathered some and placed them in the garden.


One day, an elderly nun asked me what I was doing. I expressed my intention to make the foot acupressure field with small and big pebbles. Then, she kindly said: "Some white stones are harmful to health. That white color is artificially and chemically made!"


Listening to her, I immediately removed all the white stones and picked up other natural stones scattered here and there in the yard.


Once, I thought she was very slow and too polite, but at this moment, I was so grateful for her wise advice. Otherwise, my efforts may have been in vain.


What inspiring and beneficial wisdom the elderly have. As we can find out much wisdom from them, we can get some intuition from the intertwined roots.


One day, in a homily, I heard that the very reason for the survival of the trees on windy Mt. Halla, the highest mountain on Jeju Island, is thanks to their intertwined and twisted roots.


Because of constant sea winds, it is not easy for plants and trees to stand firm, but the interconnection of their roots gives them the power to sustain and collaborate with one another. In this way, wisdom is inspired.


Twisted roots


Roots bent in all directions

as much as the steps that have passed.


If the water had overflowed,

you wouldn't have wandered looking for water.


If there had been enough water,

you would have taken root along the waterway.


Struggling for water,

roots being twisted here and there.


So, you are solid without shaking!

Curved, you are infinitely free!



The author is a member of the Daughters of St. Paul (fsp.pauline.or.kr.) living and giving the Good News to the world by means of social communication.

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