The above title is often used on the internet to denote cranky old folks. It evokes a picture of an elderly person on his or her porch, shaking a cane and yelling at kids who are crossing his or her lawn. It is the “old people are crabby” trope.
I am here to tell you, it’s not completely inaccurate.
I didn’t post last week because I was back and forth to a local social service agency, going through orientation and doing paperwork, so I can volunteer there.
The purpose of the volunteer program is to provide assistance to older people so that they can remain in their homes and not have to go to an institution of some kind to live.
I think it’s a great idea – the longer someone can stay independent, the better. I am not a fan of institutionalizing anyone, for any reason, actually. Not the elderly, not people with mental illness, not children with developmental problems, not anyone with any kind of special need.
Years ago, when I was taking special education classes at the University of Memphis, my professor talked a lot about how just being in an institution affects someone, whether or not the institution itself is a good one.
Think about it this way: If you had to live day in and day out being told what to do and when to do it, it would take a toll on your feelings of independence and autonomy, don’t you think?
We as a society talk a lot about how prison affects people, but don’t talk quite so much about how institutions as a whole affect people who have committed no crimes at all. Yet many of the same conditions exist in institutions as in prisons (told when to eat, when to sleep, when you can go out, whether or not to take meds, and so on).
So, anyway, this program is in place to try to prevent people from being institutionalized. I support that whole-heartedly.
The experiences at orientation and training last week are what prompted this week’s blog post.
Here comes the rant.
Everyone in this volunteer program (all 5 other volunteers) is older than I am. And, almost everyone who uses the services in this agency is older than I am, by at least 10 years.
Services start at age 60, but I have yet to see anyone younger than 70 participating.
But really, they are some of the crabbiest people I have met lately.
When there were breaks in the training, the main topics of conversation amongst the other volunteers were:
~ How schools today are wrecking our youth because they don’t have dress codes or prayer
~ How persecuted Christians are in this country because they can’t say “Merry Christmas” in Walmart and/or are prevented from exercising their religion wherever they see fit
~ How many Christian churches are different in how they worship, but “we all worship one god so we’re all saved anyway”
Do you see a pattern here?
These were also the frequent topics amongst different groups of people who were there to get lunch. That, and passing around cartoons on smartphones that were less than respectful of President Obama, and that’s putting it kindly.
Added to that mix – what I guess was supposed to be flirting but came off more like sexist comments and raunchy remarks.
Now, anyone who knows me, knows I am not easily offended by sexual content. But it struck me as bizarre that people who were in such a snit about the “lack of morality in today’s world” would then turn around and make a crack to someone about his private parts.
The response to that was a rape joke.
Let’s be clear about this: the people who talked this way do not have dementia or Alzheimer’s. They’re just jerks. It’s been my experience that age doesn’t necessarily mean “nice” – young jerks turn into old jerks, it seems.
My mind was boggled. Sitting there, waiting for lunch (which they so graciously provided for free), and listening to all that.
This, in a publicly-funded non-profit, where the volunteer coordinator asks before every lunch, “Who wants to lead the prayer?”
How persecuted are you when your own social service agency, which should know better, promotes Christian prayer before eating?
This is what drives me ’round the bend about fundamentalist Christians: They don’t appear to understand that they are not, in any way shape or form, persecuted in the US.
What they think of as “persecution”, others see as “letting others believe as they will”, “not forcing Christianity on the public at large”, or “realizing that we all – whatever we do or do not believe – fund public organizations and therefore do not have the right to favor one religion over another”.
Quite frankly, I am sick to death of listening to them complain about this.
But I kept quiet. You know why? Because I have an agenda, and I plan on sticking to it.
Part of that agenda is getting volunteer experience, part of it is also getting out and about and using my skills as a counselor again, and part of it is seeing how much I can physically handle in terms of work.
The bonus to all that is being able to help others. And I wonder how many “others” mentally roll their eyes at a lot of this dialogue that goes on.
You see, the people that complain the loudest are assuming that everyone is like them: straight, white, conservative, Christian.
I’m fairly sure that, statistically, at least some of the people at the agency are none of those things, or at least not most of those things.