This week's column features guest columnist Trevor Olson, High School Dean at The Grauer School. Trevor shares the wisdom he learned from Jim, a 79-year-old father and grandfather, about the importance of acknowledgment and respect for others.
Dr. Grauer's Column - The Wisdom of Acknowledgement
The Wisdom of Acknowledgement
Guest Columnist: Trevor Olson, Grauer Athletics Director & High School Dean
Recently, I had the privilege and honor to engage in a conversation with a 79-year-old father, grandfather and proud American man whom I believed in my heart had something profound to share with me. His name was Jim and he is the last surviving brother of 8. His father was a coal miner and died at 52 years young from black lung. His 7 brothers have all passed away, and when I tried to wrap my head around how difficult that must have been for him, he just got quiet and reflective and then changed the subject.
We talked life. We talked about raising children and mentoring grandchildren. We talked about raising boys and how to help them become strong, kind, confident and respectful young men. Jim had a lot to share, and as a father of two boys, you better believe I was listening. I always listen to my elders and always have. And while I may not always agree with them, I do show them the respect I feel they have earned simply due to the fact that they have lived longer, seen more, and experienced far more hardship than me. I have a deep respect for my elders and it makes me very sad that this respect seems to be vanishing or at the very least diminishing.
I asked Jim about his childhood and about how things have changed over the years and what those changes looked like from his perspective. Without hesitation he immediately, instinctively, and with great conviction, said, "acknowledgement." I was initially confused and disappointed in myself in some strange way for not grasping. Then he continued, and things became more clear.
"Trevor, acknowledgement is not complicated, but it is profound. When I was growing up, kids acknowledged other human beings, especially their elders. They recognized that others were present in their lives and they looked up to acknowledge them, to thank them, and to show respect for them." I continued to listen. "Nowadays, people don't look up to say hello, in fact many will not even get off their phones for long enough to order a sandwich, purchase groceries, or be mindful and present in a conversation. People have stopped acknowledging other people, kids have stopped acknowledging and respecting their elders, and as a society, we have increasingly allowed this to occur."
Wanting to learn more, I asked, "Why is acknowledgement so important, Jim?" And here came the wisdom, "Because when you acknowledge other humans, in that moment, you are aware that there are others in this world besides you." I nodded my head and then shook his hand. It was a good handshake and I can still feel the connection it created between us. (Every student at Grauer knows how important connection is to all of us.) We acknowledged each other, and it felt right.
To the students of Grauer, I leave you with 5 simple ways you can acknowledge other human beings in this world to show them that you see them, honor them, and respect them. Connect. These are not the only ways, of course, but these would be a good start:
- When you go to your friends' houses, get off your phones and say hello to their parents. Make eye contact, introduce yourself, and shake their hands if it is your first time meeting them. When you leave, say goodbye and thank them.
- When you are ordering food from a restaurant, get off your phone and have a conversation with your waiter/waitress. When the food arrives, once again put down your phone and acknowledge them for providing it for you.
- When you arrive to your classes, say hello to your teachers. When you leave class, say goodbye and thank them.
- Be respectful to your parents. Independence is the goal of adolescence, but you can still accomplish this without being disrespectful. Acknowledge your parents and be respectful, even when you disagree with them.
- Listen to your elders. Social scientists say listening is the language of love. Your elders have stories to tell, and those stories are worth listening to.
I am convinced that no one has the ultimate playbook to living life, however, as my good friend Jim says, "Acknowledgement is not complicated, but it is profound."
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