This weekend I was privileged to be judging a competition in one of my city’s well-known schools, along with others. The chief guest of the day, a young writer and educationist, rephrased the proverbial tale of the hare and the tortoise in four different versions.
The first one was the usual version we have all heard of the tortoise winning the race, giving rise the famous adage Slow and steady wins the race. She encouraged the crowd of young and old listeners, participants of the day and the parents and others, to learn the lesson of being consistent in your efforts even when the odds were against you.
The second version as told by her was that of the hare, having got the worse end of the bargain, challenging the tortoise to a repeat race and true to form, winning it in style. Her application of this version of the story encouraged her audience to possess the craving to win, even when you have seemingly failed.
The third version of the story had the tortoise demanding a third race in which he would set the course. The hare agrees and sets off in his usual fast pace until he reaches a hurdle. A stream blocks his way and he has no recourse but to see the tortoise go sailing past him to win again. Her conclusion here was that it is important to make wise choices that play to your strengths.
A fourth version of the story had her describing the hare and the tortoise arriving at a collaboration to both win the race. The hare agrees to carry the tortoise across the path where he is king and the tortoise likewise agreeing to do the same for hare in his own area of strength. It is a win-win situation where complementary action enhances and promotes relationship that competition did not enable. Her point was that, collaboration with others would bring greater reach and benefit than when you isolate yourself.
The first thought I had when I saw a young speaker, was the contrast with yesteryears when a chief guest would normally and usually be a senior person. I almost felt resentment that the old are being neglected for the young and the seniors more and more being sidelined almost as if they are of no consequence. Tech-savvy youngsters are quickly replacing people who have slogged faithfully for many years, giving the best years of their life to the company. At an age and time when they should be those in positions of leadership, they are being overlooked for promotion or being denied it for the sake of a trainee who is probably half or even one-third their age. They are placed in a very delicate position of being to protest the injustice of it all and having to bear with much indignity due to the needing a job at a time when they are funding their children’s higher education and need. Many of them just shut up and put up in order to survive in a highly competitive environment just because they have commitments that cannot be laid down and miles to go before they can rest.
As I sat there listening to her talk and her innovative interpretation of a familiar tale, I had a moment of epiphany – collaboration is the key to promote goodwill and well-being, causing a win-win situation all around! Young blood has the passion, the effervescence, the drive and power needed to propel to new levels and heights. Golden-ager has the patience, experience, stability and stamina necessary to establish once the heights are reached. Youth is like the upper reaches or the starting points of rivers, which leap and bound over obstacles, their headlong power rush helping to overcome impediments that would hinder the progress. The old hands are like the third stage and estuary sections of a river, its very slowness and meandering contributing to establishment of rich alluvials that promote cultivation and agriculture. Interchanging of these capabilities and natural strengths would indeed have catastrophic effect and cataclysmic impact on the work done by a river.
The story is told of a sultan who one decided to move his capital to another location and decreed that the old and the ailing should be left behind as they would delay the progress and be a drag on their displacement. He wanted a smooth and quick transition and so insisted that they old be abandoned. One filial son, however, could not bear to leave his aged widowed father behind and chose to carry him hidden in a basket on his shoulders as his personal goods. Halfway to their destination, the host of people ran out of water and could not find water for not just the people but also the cattle that accompanied them. The son spoke to his father who told him to advise the sultan to let loose the deer in their horde and a few swift riders to follow the deer. The sultan, though doubting the soundness of the advice, followed it as he had no other resort left. A few hours after the release of the animals, the riders following them rode into the camp with the joyous news of finding water. The sultan praised the young guy, who then confessed that sound counsel had come from his father and he begged the sovereign to forgive his duplicity. Sultan praised him for his love and care, and determined to transport those left behind to join them in the new place once they reached it.
Generation gap is thought to be an urban myth and a perceived bane of advanced, modern and sophisticated societies. Primitive settlements and simple cultures do not seem to grapple with this situation and the principles of their existence. Their age-old time-tested practices such as initiation rites seem to help bestow individuality in the context of community and promote general cohesiveness through the collaboration of the generations. The golden oldies serve as the backbone of their social structure, while the sprightly youngster becomes the pride and progress of the tribe. Such peaceful cooperation and co-existence works to the advantage of both, neither feeling upstaged or neglected, their unspelled partnership ensuring the overall success of the general population. Sure there are rebels and upstarts who sometimes tend to upset the apple cart, but these who are usually rare rather than the norm are soon put in place by the restrictions and regimes (such as banishment from the tribe) of the society they are part of.
In the aftermath of crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, Apostle Paul, the early architect of churches, Apostle Paul, giving a similar pattern of co-functioning. In his letters to the early churches and its leaders, he sets model for partnership of the different age groups. He sets the standard of the older men and women by advising them to have a conduct worthy of respect so that they could teach the younger sound deportment that would promote care of the next generation and maintain perfect order and harmony in the community. This would then ensure that there would be no hindrance or impediment to achieving the common goal of the community viz., the progress of the gospel.
I came away from that function, not only with my hands full of goodies given in honor of my participation in the event, but also my mind buzzing with fresh insight into the means of achieving a harmonious arrangement of the ages that would be a breathtaking symphony of collaboration. I now had a different story to teach, an old story revamped with new ideas, the old hare and tortoise tale repackaged!