Age truly is a simple number. It’s near impossible to gauge a person’s experiences based on the number of years they’ve been walking the surface of this planet. A person’s age doesn’t reflect their individual experiences or the level of their maturity or the depth of their kindness. Assuming a 16-year-old is nothing more than a kid or an 80-year-old is wise is not only ignorant, it’s foolish.
Case in point; in 1992, I had fled my abusive marriage. To ensure the safety of my life, as well as my children’s, I trekked across the country to Flagstaff, Arizona, where I had literally no familial ties. With my last paycheck in hand, the car loaded with kid’s clothes, toys, car seats, and a few of my own personal items, the three of us set out on an adventure. And not for the sake of the excitement. There isn’t much excitement in travelling as a single mother with a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old in tow. No. That is the definition of hard.
Upon arrival, I carted my children into the lobby of a seedy motel. You know, one of those hourly-rates and we-know-nothing kind of motels. A younger, busty woman stood across from me at the desk, and eyed my son’s freshly bruised face. I found it difficult to meet her gaze, so instead, I picked at the peeling white paint and whispered that I’d like a room.
Startled from the gentle squeeze that spread warmth across my trembling hand, my eyes flicked up, only to be greeted by her kind smile. She said one thing and one thing only, “You running, honey?” I still remember those words. Her tone of voice still fresh in my mind. Crisp, like crinkling paper.
I nodded my answer, and she held up a single finger, turned, and exited through a door on her right. In that moment of solitude, I almost fled from the establishment. I had turned to leave when the door opened and this woman, who couldn’t possibly be older than me and barely the tender age of 22, reappeared.
She explained that they miraculously had a job opening that included free room and board, as well as a weekly paycheck, which amazingly was to be paid in cash. Even more astounding, the job was mine if I wanted. Of course, I accepted. I worked for months, saving every penning to hire a lawyer, who would naturally include a restraining order in tandem with divorce papers. And every meal was eaten with this young woman and her obviously-older husband.
This girl’s depth of kindness and compassion saved me. Saved us. But my point is that there is no magic number for empathy. For understanding. For wisdom. For character. A person’s age is just that, a number. Before any of us assumes that a young child is selfish, a teenager is rebellious, or an adult is wise, we must consider who they are deep down; at the core of their being. That 22-year-old girl was much wiser than her years. Don’t you think it’s to our benefit to be wiser than our own years and let the true beauty of those around us unfold naturally, instead of assuming we already know who they are based on their age?