A Conversation

Elders say the darnedest things.
These old gems are constantly dropping knowledge on us young whipper snappers, and I love a chance to catch it.
It’s because of an old gem that my first homecoming as an alumna was one I will not forget.
I graduated from an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), so I could spend hours on a list of why I had the time of my life, but what made it memorable was

a conversation in the tailgate area at 1am, on the last official day of the homecoming week, with a class of 75′ alumnus.

Making a final round through the tailgate with my group of friends collecting all the free food we could, we came upon an RV that screamed, “Come hang out with my owners!”

We confidently set our path to said RV with about nine people on its plot, and were greeted 10 feet away by a large effervescent woman, with arms literally open wide,

“My young Panthers! Out so late; come sit with us antiques and make plates! We have so much food to get rid of!”

I am not shy when offered food, so I was of course the first to make a plate and grab a chair. After surveying my options I decided to sit next to a large linebacker of a man, with a thick gray beard and pretty gray hair, who looked as though he was waiting for one of us to say something rude and dumb.
I like a challenge.

“Hello. Thank y’all for the food, how has your day been?”
“It has been fine my dear. How are your studies going?”
“Well sir, I’m a new alum. My studies are done until grad school next fall, I’m taking time right now to gain real world experience.”
“Oh! Wonderful! And you’re continuing your education? Beautiful!… You look much younger than you are.”

I can always count on my childlike face to break barriers in some way.
By this time the rest of my comrades were settled into their seats, and the group conversations started rolling.
After about an hour of stories, laughs, and harmless debates, the topic took a serious turn to the decline of our generations respect for our elders, and my gray bearded friend said something that has stuck with me.

“How old are you my dear?”
“I’m 22 sir.”
“22. A baby. I need your generation to realize that I’ve been on this planet every day of your life, but you’ve only been here for 22 years of mine.”

So simple. So true. So obvious. Yet the notion had never crossed my mind.
I may be more impressed than I should be. Maybe it’s a moment where you had to be there to understand how powerful it is. Either way, I couldn’t forget that statement if I wanted to.

Oh, the things we can learn from those who have been around the block for a while. We would do ourselves a great favor to listen to them.

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