Seasoned with Salt
More than twenty years ago there
was a TV advertisement in Malaysia (in Cantonese Chinese) for a national car
model that was about to be launched. The setting was an old Chinese coffee shop
where three men sipped their coffee and ate breakfast—an ordinary
day-to-day scene in Malaysia. The two younger men were discussing the launch of
this new car and the question arose as to whether purchasing the car would be a
good decision, especially since this was a new made-in-Malaysia brand, which
had yet to establish itself. The younger men were indecisive and unenthusiastic
as they were not sure about the quality of the car.
The older man, having finished his
coffee and having listened intently to the conversation of the younger men said
in Cantonese, “…in my lifetime, the salt I have tasted is more than the rice
you have eaten”. He then continued to advise the younger men. Since this is a
car advertisement, no prizes for guessing that the older man recommended
purchasing the car, saying it was good value for money.
HONOR THE PRESENCE OF AN OLD MAN?
The statement comparing salt with
rice, a famous Chinese idiom, points to the experiences and wisdom of the
“grey-haired” amongst us—those who have walked the path of life and
journey of faith before us. This idiom reminds us to take counsel from our
elders and seniors, who are much more experienced and thus much wiser.
Moreover, the Bible also exhorts us to “rise before the gray headed and honor
the presence of an old man” (Lev 19:32). Unfortunately, even in the context of
the church, this standard of respect has changed and morphed into something
unrecognizable as successive generations pass.
In the time of my parents, honor
and respect meant complete subservience and deference. The voice of the elders
mattered the most and children were meant to be seen but seldom heard.
When it came to my time (those
between thirty and fifty, who are themselves parents now), this standard of
respect towards parents and seniors began to change; with the changing times
came the “new age” of “children’s rights”, i.e., children were meant to be seen
and they were finding their voices. They were allowed a degree of flexibility
to state and make their case before parents, going as far as making certain decisions
for themselves (within a limited spectrum). With the dawn of this new age came
the concept of “personal space”, where children had a small private realm to
call their own.
Even though we may have had some
room to “wriggle” and personal space, we still would not run far from having
our parents or elders infuse a liberal dosing of “salt” and wisdom into our
lives, where they were able to share their thoughts, experiences and “advice”,
urging us to head towards a particular direction. This “salt factor” was very
much a part of our lives, coupled with ample communication (many times one-way
traffic from the perspective of parents and elders). Such “seasoning” added
color, perspective, and much needed wisdom and direction into our lives. The
salt that was on offer broadened our spectrum of thought as well as depth, even
if most communication ended up as a parental monologue.
What about the “children” of
today? Those on the cusp of adulthood, yet still adolescent in terms of their
thinking (thirteen going on thirty)? Things have continued to change and have
become a lot more complicated. The world is colder and relationships harder as
well as more strained. Time, which was well spent in my generation on being
seasoned with salt, just evaporates in the world of the Internet, the
Blackberry, the iPods, the Play Stations, Facebook and social networking and
the all too familiar, “leave me alone”.
How many of us younger ones have
experienced the benefit of open sharing with our parents or our more
experienced elders? Do we only focus on ourselves, think highly of our own
abilities and experiences (limited though they may be)? Do we discard our older
generations’ wisdom and encouragement, dismissing them as the rumblings of the
old and foolish? When our parents advise or correct us, do we “switch off”
because we think they don’t understand the needs and challenges of the 21st
century? Do we even claim that they do not love us and throw our tantrums? Do
we purposely or perhaps unwittingly relegate our parents and elders to the
status of maid, nanny, cook or even nothing but a personal bank?
Be honest, how many of us find
time to engage in open sharing and discussion with our parents or elders? If we
do, is it on a regular basis? Put this into perspective and then reflect on how
much time we spend on other less constructive or useless deeds…
LOVE AND HUMILITY IS KEY
As young people, we seek to be
loved and respected. So do our parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles as
well as senior members at church. Why then, don’t we try to love and respect
them in the same way we hope our offspring will do to us? The first step we can
take is to submit to them in love and clothe ourselves in humility as the
apostle Peter exhorts us to do (1 Pet 5:5). If we listen to them while they are
still with us and share our lives openly with them, there’s every chance that
we will naturally grow closer to them at heart.
Think about our parents’ and
elders’ love and sacrifice for us. Because of them, we have the opportunity to
lead the life that we now have. Let us not be wise in our own eyes; but instead
seek wisdom and guidance from our Lord and from our parents, elders and seniors
who have walked the path before us and tasted much more of the salt of life
than we have. Seek counsel from our elders—their thoughts and wisdom will
certainly enrich us and save us many painful lessons.
I often recall a very wise saying
of an old lady who has since been called to the Lord, whose wit and mind was
sharp till her departure from this earth… “Remember to walk upright, do good in
life and to others, and don’t be disheartened by what others would say to you
or about you.”
Let our lives in the Lord be
seasoned with salt for it will enrich our lives ever more.