Earlier this week the Uri L’Tzedek fellows in New York volunteered for Dorot. Our volunteer work consisted of us escorting some seniors to cemeteries to visit their deceased loved ones. Some brought flowers, others love and prayers. What was so eye opening to me about my experience, was the orientation; people had to be taught how to speak to seniors.
I must tell you, that it chills me to the bone, the thought of not going to see my grandparents during the chagim, family yahrtzeits, Thanksgiving, or even for the periodic visit just to say hello. Our grandparents and their generation are living history and are what connects us to the past.
So why does Dorot feel like they must have an orientation before we speak to the seniors? Unfortunately it seems like people just aren’t connecting to the past generations and as a result to their history. Perhaps this is why many have identity issues; they have no “home base” to connect with. This is part of a greater problem with today’s society, we cannot connect to the past, and we are constantly pushing ourselves away from it.
Now that we are entering the Nine Days, I think it is most apropos that we reflect on the past. If we would have learned from our mistakes from the first churban Ha-Beit, then perchance there never would have been a second churban. The Beit Ha-Mikdash was also destroyed because of sinat chinam, and I don’t think there’s any better example other than this, people not caring about others just because they have a little more life experience. This even comes to the point to where they don’t even know how to talk to them. Then when they do decide to “do the noble thing” and “help a senior” they have to be reminded to how to interact with these seniors.
Yes, they might have a bit more life experience than you, and most likely they listen to different music, but at the end of the day you have a lot in common with many seniors. You just have to simply talk to them like the human beings. Not only might you learn more about your history, roots and really about yourself, you might even make a friend. So the next time you see a senior, remember that one day you’ll be one too.
-Jonah Keyak, Uri L’Tzedek Fellows 2012 – New York City