The Scene of the World is Changing: a Watchtower to Ease Adjustment.
April 17, 2023
At breakfast in our Ithaca hotel, a Chinese family sat a few yards from us. Most likely they were here to scout out Cornell for the teenage son. As they got up to leave, I nodded friendly to them and each smiled friendly back. The teenage boy encircled grandma with his arms, nowhere touching, as though to safeguard her as she walked. You got the impression it was standard practice.
That’s not a bad intro to a discussion of one Sunday’s Watchtower Study, is it? [‘Treasure Our Faithful Older One’s—Wt September 2021] That study, and the one preceding it, tackled the challenge of gracefully aging and how the generations interact with each other. The old people need learn to let go, not easy because, like everyone, their self-worth gets tied up in what they do. So they must adjust in viewpoint, and this the WatchtowerStudy encouraged them to do.
“The Bible is like an owner’s manual for the product that is us,” I told the young woman in the dog park that I regarded as my own personal territory. “It gives good guidance on coping with the hassles we all face, while we await a better world.” The young woman conceded that was as good a summary as any she had heard, and even approached me later to say she had enjoyed our short conversation.
Sometimes I’ll be working up a head of steam on this or that subject, telling people how things ought to be as their eyes glaze over. “Yeah, they just think I’m an old fart,” I say to myself. It is a good check. You can’t guide the younger generation if you bowl them over. Paragraph 3 of the study even cited Ecclesiastes 7:10: “Do not say, ‘Why were the former days better than these?’ for it is not out of wisdom that you ask this.” Who would have thought it would be in the Bible that you should not drone on and on about the good old days? What young snot of a writer snuck that one in?
The ‘scene of the world is changing.’ That same paragraph quoted this 1 Corinthians 7:31 verse as well, and young people can wrap their heads around new things quicker that old ones. They simply have minds more flexible.
“Isn’t there anything youngsters are better at than old people,” the restless college kids asked Lil Abner creator Al Capp (who didn’t think much of them)? “Yeah, they’re better at carrying luggage,” he admitted. Naw—they’re better at all kinds of things, and within the Christian congregation is found about the best encouragement as to how the old can honor the young same as the young honor the old.
(Fast forward to another Sunday meeting: The speaker called for a picture displayed on screen, but Brother Allthumbs was at the controls! The pic displayed in time, but it was a very very long time, during which the speaker made his point without it. Fortunately for Allthumbs, the adjoining WatchtowerStudy specifically included a pic and paragraph about commending such a new attendant for his efforts rather than chewing him out for his blunders.)
A modest person knows when it is time to “change to a lower gear,” the study said, “so that he can continue to be active and productive in Jehovah’s service.” Another paragraph cited Barzillai, ducking out of an assignment from David because (at 80) he thought himself too old and fretted he would just slow things down. (2 Samuel 19:35) I laughed aloud (Zoom-muted) at the elderly sis who said it was tough to let go as we begin to decline “soon after 40.” Yikes! She’s not known as a jokester, either.
About the only one who can’t get away with doing less is Sam Herd, forever quipping and playing the grumpy old man card. He mutters that, as one of the Governing Body, he would like to retire “but they won’t let me.” He does get to sit, though; I’ve seen it. But he didn’t sit taking his turn as GB speaker at the 2019 Regional—the last physical convention before they went virtual for the pandemic. They made him work.
The speaker preceding that Sunday’s Watchtower Study was a bro who could be charged about rattling on about the good ol days. He is a Beatles fan, and he has been known to contrast those tunes favorably with those of today. Alas, we all know that the day they stopped making good music is the day we stopped listening to it. But there was plenty of rubbish back then, same as there is today. I think he’s trying to live down his image, but others tease him about it, and in post-meeting Zoom chit-chat he did succumb to “hoping he had passed the audition.”
He’s a good speaker—a pleasant man who keeps things lively. His talk was “Making a Good Name with God” and it included much discussion of just what’s in a name. Before he came onboard, in pre-meeting chit-chat, we had been batting around just that. For the longest time, I was the only Tom in the congregation, but now there are two. What that means, the other Tom said, is that anytime you hear your name mentioned, you are not sure it is really you being addressed and you risk looking dumb if you cheerily acknowledge a greeting that is not yours. This happened to me once in high school. The fact I still remember it shows it made an impression. A teacher approaching in the hall said, ‘Hi, Tom!” I happily answered right back, but he had meant it for the teacher just behind me, also named Tom. Feel stupid, or what?
Think that’s bad? said Joe. “You know how many people are named ‘Joe?’” But I observed that he could always take consolation in their being an expression, ‘he’s a good joe,’ whereas there was no corresponding expression about being a good tom.
Except at Thanksgiving, one sis chimed in.
****** The bookstore