Teaching a Young Dog Old Tricks: Cross-Generational Friendships

This post has nothing to do with dogs. In fact, I’ve never owned a dog. I’m a cat person, which is probably no surprise. All of that aside, everyone has heard the phrase “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” This usually describes an immovable person who has become so stubbornly set in their ways that they can’t (or are unwilling to) change. It usually refers to age and it’s tendency to cement our habits and behaviors in our respective mental grounds.

However, I am taking a different spin on the phrase in order to illustrate a point about wisdom, experience, and authenticity.

The truth of the matter is, I have several friends who are two and three times my age. In some cases, I could be their child and in others, I could be their grandchild. While I certainly enjoy the company of friends in my age group most of the time, I really enjoy my “old” friends. Now, in interest of full disclosure, some of my “old” friends do dote on me like a grandchild. They don’t shower me with gifts or anything, but they do take a very personal interest in me and what I’m doing. I’m pretty sure that some of them brag about me, too. But, this doesn’t really affect our friendships in a way that makes them different from those in my peer group. Of course, we aren’t talking about dating and our favorite pop songs together, but we talk and joke around…a lot. And everything they say and do resonates with me. I’ve always admired the wisdom of people who have been my age before. It is cliché, but it’s true. And there must be some reason that humans have spent thousands of years ruminating on the subject. We still do. And it probably has to do with the fact that we “young folk” more often than not lack the ability to understand and apply the advice we get from older people. If hindsight is 20/20, then foresight is 50/40. But, of course, we’re always trying to gaze into the future to see what might happen and how we can plan.

Besides general wisdom about life and living, my “old” friends also teach me a great deal about how to treat others. I think our generation is generally inauthentic. In the age of technology-facilitated communication and friendships, we have shallow relationships with others and an inflated sense of self. We post, post, post about what we think and feel and like with an expectation for interaction with our digital circle of friends. We feel pangs of disappointment when something we thought was important gets relegated to the bottom of the ever-growing “newsfeed” of our digital lives. We “like” each other’s pictures which is no more than a digital half-smile passing by in a crowd.

Okay. I’m ranting. Getting off topic. But, what I’m trying to say is I’ve seen my “old” friends treat each other with such genuine care and kindness. Perhaps it is because they grew up in the WWII era of sacrificing for the greater good. When someone dies, they show up at the decedent’s home to bring food to loved ones. They visit each other in the hospital. They know their neighbors. They sought not fame and fortune in their younger years, but stability and family. They didn’t have 500 friends like the rest of us, but knew the difference between and acquaintance and a true friend (and the distinction between the two was not an insult).

My meaning is not to disdain my own generation and raise older ones on a pedestal. Rather, I am lamenting the fact that in a world where we are connected to everything now, it is so easy to feel connected to nothing. Intimacy is harder to find. Superficiality pervades every aspect of communication and genuine intent has near disappeared. Just think of the phrase “Let’s get coffee sometime.” We say that when we want to express our desire to reconnect at sometime in the future, but not immediately. Just respond to that with “Okay. What about tomorrow?” and watch the look of shock swipe across the person’s face. Invite “old” friend to coffee and they’ll take you seriously. They say what they mean and they mean what they say.

So, I encourage you to make friends with someone old enough to be your parent or grandparent who isn’t related to you. I think you’ll be surprised at how much fun you can have together and how much you will learn from each other. You’ll have a source of wisdom and your youthful vitality will add a lot to their lives, as well.

Looking forward to being an “old” lady,


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