I heard them cajoling loudly amongst themselves about the "old bag" and I was horrified. I continued to watch as they discussed what she was wearing and how many wrinkles were on her face.
This was where I stepped in, I asked them to move to the other end of the carriage and leave the woman alone. The man on the train also spoke up and demanded they apologise. The girls got up rudely, shook their fists at us and got off at the next stop. The poor woman was shaking and frightened. This was the first time I believe I have witnessed ageism in action.
Ageism is a form of abuse where people are discriminated against for their age, and is in most cases usually aimed at the elderly. I believe that the incident which I witnessed was just another form of ageism- age discrimination at its worst. In New Zealand, examples of ageism are most commonly found in the workforce with people not being hired for certain positions because of being too old or too young.
Age discrimination in general makes me furious. I hate to think that someone could be treated differently because of their age, and after this incident on the train, I felt even more strongly towards this. I've thought it over several times and I can't conjure up any explanation for what happened that day.
It's a complete generalisation and I apologise for that, however I believe that my generation and the coming up next generation, do not know what it means to respect their elders. The clearest instruction on this I can find is in the bible, the first commandment found in Ephesians chapter 6 verse 2, 'Respect your father and mother.' Isn't it always something we're taught from an early age to respect ourselves and one another?
My Papa has always said, "If you can't respect your own parents, how will you ever respect anyone or be deserving of someone else's respect?" As a little girl, I never really made much sense of it and it probably wasn't until high school did much of it start to become clear to me. Respect is not a right, it is something earned by giving someone else the same in return. It is treating someone fairly and as my Grandma always said, 'You must always treat others how you would like to be treated.'
My Grandma is a beautiful person, she has years of knowledge and life experience behind her and sadly enough it's taken me almost eighteen years to realise this. I lived overseas as a child and far away from both my grandparents so I never really had a close relationship with any of my grandparents. Since moving to New Zealand and even more so to Christchurch, I've really begun to appreciate my Grandma.
We send weekly emails and I've found that through these I've been able to ask her questions about her own life that I wish I'd asked earlier. My friends and those in my generation need to appreciate those who are older than us, who have that irreplaceable wisdom and take advantage of it before it's too late. I'm just grateful that I've become close to my Grandma while she's still alive and quilting.
One of the best things about elderly people is their wisdom. In Job Chapter 12 verse 12 it says, "Wisdom belongs to the aged, and understanding to the old." These are both beautiful scriptures which really demonstrate the importance of elderly people in our lives no matter how old we are.
As a young person, I want elderly people to be appreciated. I don't want to have to see elderly people on the train or any aged person being discriminated against because of their age. In Proverbs Chapter 16 verse 31 it says, "Grey hair is a crown of glory, it is gained in a righteous life." Grey haired people are the ones who stood in our places not long ago. They were once teenagers, young adults and tried to make a life for themselves like many of us today.
They deserve our respect just as much as one of our friends and should be honoured for all they have done to make the way for what we have today. They're wisdom should be learned from and not taken for granted and like I love my Grandma, they must all feel appreciated by the young.
Joelle Bautista is a Journalism student of the New Zealand Broadcasting School based in Christchurch. She enjoys writing, talking and playing sport. Born and raised in the Church, her love for God grows increasingly by the day.
Joelle Bautista's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/joelle-bautista.html