(LIFE) SCHOOL DAZE

By Jug Varner

In a recent column, I mentioned the five-cent hamburgers of my youth. It reminded me of something that occurred more recently.

Occasionally I write articles for our local paper. One of these was about Veterans Day. A local area teacher read it and invited me to come talk with her intermediate school class.

It was an interesting experience because today's youth know very little about history, except what they skim over in class or see on films or TV. One never knows what to expect in talking with a group of seventh-graders, so I planned a general theme, and to let their questions lead me into whatever situation seemed to spark an interest — hoping that not too many would go to sleep.

That worked pretty well, especially when I talked about how things were when I was about their age in school, many years ago. That led to some remarks about five-cent hamburgers as well as other things of that time period. Most of them stayed awake all the way through.

A couple of weeks later, a package arrived containing individual “thank you” letters from each student in attendance. I'm sure the teacher required this as part of their grade, but it was a nice gesture, nonetheless. It was also an excellent feedback of their reactions. You guessed it. Almost every one of them made some comment about the nickel hamburger. They still couldn't believe it.

One of my favorite projects is one I have coordinated with local schools for the past four years. We bring the 65-and-over age group together with fledgling writers who interview them once a week for three weeks, then create a story about the elders' lives. We publish each year's stories in a bound volume and give a copy to each of the participants.

This has evolved into something very special for both age groups, without the personal attachment of typical grandparent-grandchild relationships. The students learn a lot about history from those who helped make it…and also learn that age is merely a state of mind. The seniors learn that today's youngsters far exceed their stereotyped prior expectations. They learn, too, that except for cultural changes over time, today's kids are not all that different than the seniors were at that same age.

Everyone seems to benefit from this interesting program and, despite the inexperience of the writers, their stories are a special treat. And so are the newfound friendships that are kindled by this “closing of the age gap.”

Too soon old…too late smart.