Turning little acorns to big oaks

  • Community
  • Monday, 09 Apr 2012

In their effort to mould today’s greenhorns to become future leaders, elders should also take time to listen, and give counsel to youths charting their own course in life.

IF I were granted a wish that could have me choose one particular age to forever be in, I would want to be 25. I think it’s just the right number, being somewhat the threshold between adolescence and adulthood.

So when I saw youngsters thronging Kuching’s first ever fund- raising event organised wholly by the youths themselves, I wanted to be young and restless again. And yes, I would admit that I was slightly jealous of their vigour and energy.

But as in many situations, there would surely be one or two who would put a real damper on such fun moments.

A lady, perhaps in her mid-30s, upon seeing the young people at the festival engaging in many activities such as skateboarding, painting graffiti, selling items at the flea market or simply enjoying themselves that day, shook her head.

I overheard her saying to a friend: “This is a charity event? Trust the youths to do it and they’ll come out with something ridiculous like this. “Gambung.”

There you go: my Sarawakian word of the week. Now this one is a bit tricky to explain. It can mean “arrogant” by way of describing someone having or showing an exaggerated opinion of one’s own importance, merit, ability and self-worth.

Another context can be “over-exuberance” where someone is overly showing off to others.

Whatever it is, I really do not think it’s the right word to describe the youths at the charity event.

The fact is we were all young once. What puzzles me is that why some of us, as we get older, become exactly the adult figure whom we detested or defied when we were younger?

To me, the lady who made that gambung remark is a representative of a group of adults who would scoff or mock any effort by the youths, regardless of the objective, just because they see the young people as not having the capability to be serious.

This happens all the time, and has been going on for decades even. During my school days years ago, I had experiences with few teachers who were such authoritarians — they simply couldn’t accept that youths could lead each other.

Their attitudes towards the younger generation could be summed up by a short passage in the novel Things Fall Apart, a masterpiece by the great Nigerian writer and poet Chinua Achebe: “When a child washes his hands, he can eat with elders.”

Mind you, this book was published in 1958.

It seems that then, and now, adults have been reprimanding and telling youths to get serious with life, and only after that would they be considered “clean” enough to join at the elders’ “table”.

Yet, are the elders ready to listen and see what the “children” have to do in order to be seen as serious?

Are they even willing or patient enough to show the youths the way to “wash their hands” properly?

I’ve seen many an organisation that has its youth wing being led by individuals who are in their 40s and beyond.

The National Youth Development Policy defines youths as those aged between 15 and 40. The United Nations, meanwhile, categorises these people in the bracket of 15 to 24 years old.

So it seems rather not right to have elders chairing any youth movement.

They can be the advisers or patrons — which I think very rightly so — but even in that capacity, they have to be willing to open up to new ideas and guide the youths into realising these ideas using the most viable channels available.

The elders can also be counsel should any of these ideas don’t work out or come short of expectations.

In this sense, I guess it’s OK for the elders to say “I told you so” (knowing that they quietly suppressing the urge to do so); but at the same time, they should show youths the way out of these shortcomings and improve on the good sides of the undertaking.

Don’t simply utter the word gambung to them.

Show them how to “wash their hands” properly, right?

After all, we cannot escape the cliché: youths today are the leaders of tomorrow.

What the elders can do is listen and observe, guide when necessary and give their support.

Both the elders and youths may have the same objective but different means to achieve it. It doesn’t really matter as to how this will be done; the point is you get there and hit that goal. Most importantly also, the elders have to be up-to-date.

In today’s fast-paced world and technology bringing new things every second, nobody can afford to be left behind.

Elders have to catch up no matter what. But in doing so, they can connect better to youths by way of using technology as a drawing factor. You can see it for yourselves; many successful corporate and political personalities who embrace technology are also able to engage with the youths successfully.

There are lots of things that can inspire youths to become the best that they can be to themselves and society.

But it would be even more significant if in turn, youths could inspire the society to continue giving its best. Oh, by the way — did I mention that Malaysia defines youths as those aged between 15 and 40?

Guess I’m still a youth then.

And yes, you can call me gambung for that statement.

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