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.