Many of you know that nearly from the beginning, Time Goes By has shared a connection with awesome geriatrician Bill Thomas, author of my favorite book on aging, What Are Old People For?, and his new novel about elders, Tribes of Eden.
Equally awesome is Bill’s editor, Kavan Peterson, who runs their website Changing Aging and works closely with Bill on many other projects.
Three years ago, Bill joined the ranks of elders when he turned 50 but Kavan is a young guy, in his 30s, a new father (for the second time) and what’s important to know is that he is as much an elder advocate as Bill.
Okay, that’s just so know him a little bit because today’s post is lifted (with Kavan’s permission) directly from the Changing Aging website, a story written and posted by Kavan about an extraordinary young woman who is as wise as any elder I’ve ever known. Here is Kavan’s story about Balpreet Kaur.
This viral story blew my mind — a young Sikh woman with facial hair who was mocked on the social news-bookmarking site Reddit, saw the post and personally responded to the mockery in the most compassionate, enlightened way possible.
Not only did she educate the douchebag (to use his own handle) who posted her photo on what it means to be a bold, self-assured and proud Sikh woman who embraces the sacredness of the body (Sikhs are bound not to cut their hair or alter their body), she provided an insight worthy of elderhood:
“When I die, no one is going to remember what I looked like, heck, my kids will forget my voice, and slowly, all physical memory will fade away.
“However, my impact and legacy will remain: and, by not focusing on the physical beauty, I have time to cultivate those inner virtues and hopefully, focus my life on creating change and progress for this world in any way I can.
“So, to me, my face isn’t important but the smile and the happiness that lie behind the face are.”
To be aware of and embrace such an intrinsic truth as a young adult is inspiring. Read Balpreet Kaur’s full response here.
The story gets even better — Balpreet’s warm and dignified comment actually shamed the original poster into apologizing:
“I know that this post ISN’T a funny post but I felt the need to apologize to the Sikhs, Balpreet, and anyone else I offended when I posted that picture.
“Put simply it was stupid. Making fun of people is funny to some but incredibly degrading to the people you’re making fun of. It was an incredibly rude, judgmental, and ignorant thing to post…
“So reddit I’m sorry for being an asshole and for giving you negative publicity. Balpreet, I’m sorry for being a closed minded individual. You are a much better person than I am Sikhs, I’m sorry for insulting your culture and way of life. Balpreet’s faith in what she believes is astounding.”
Ronni here again. I don’t know about you, but me – when someone has been rude or insulting or just the usual nastiness that can erupt, particularly on the internets – my first reaction is to hit back. Hard. Not physically, but I’m pretty good at verbally.
Balpreet Kaur handled it differently and in doing so, changed someone’s beliefs and behavior. She made a big difference not only in that person’s life, but in the lives of others he might have attacked in the future and in the lives of everyone who read their exchange. Last I looked there were more than 1500 responses to Ms. Kaur’s post. (Please use the links above to read both their postings in full.)
From time to time here at TGB, we speak about the wisdom of elders with the hope we will grow into it. Sometimes I preen a bit to myself about having gained some wisdom here and there in my 71 years. Ha! I’ve got a long way to go to catch up with Balpreet Kaur. Age probably has less to do with wisdom than we like to think.
Thank you, Kavan, for finding and posting this.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Jeanne Waite Follett: Silverbacks, Stupidity and Actuarial Quizzes