Young Elders: An Oxymoron

Young Elders: An Oxymoron

“How did you learn about wine?” I get asked that question a lot and I often answer, “I drank a lot of wine.” It’s true: there is really only one way to learn about wine; you have to drink – or more accurately, taste – a lot of wine. Experience matters and sometimes the only way to really know something is to have a lot of experience with it.

When I first got into wine I didn’t know the difference between an old Bordeaux and a Chilean Cabernet, but I began tasting and after a while I was able to recognize the differences and know what I liked. I learned to recognize the different grapes, some of the winemaking techniques, and understand the various terroir and climates. I learned what “old world” and “new world” were and I learned to recognize the flaws of “corked,” “cooked,” and “oxidized” by tasting. You can’t learn that from a book or from someone else telling you, you have to taste the wine to know.

There is no substitute for experience, and we need to value it.

I was speaking for a group of church elders and at the break one of them came up to me and pointed to a young man across the room and said, “he’s one of your young elders.” I stopped him and said, “you know that’s an oxymoron.” He looked at me quizzically as if he had no idea what I meant. I continued, “It’s a contradiction in terms.” I told him that there is a reason they are called “elders.” They are supposed to have the experience that comes with being old; with having “Been there. Done that.” Then he got it.

We live in a culture where youth is highly valued and advancing age is regarded as unwanted and “out of touch.” But we are missing out on the value of “elders.” We’re missing the wisdom of people who have walked the path before us and know where the pitfalls are. We are missing the leadership of people who have been through it all before and have seen this all before. People who have the battle scars and know how to keep calm in a storm. People who know when to be quiet and when to speak – and who actually have something to say that is worth listening to. They may not know their way around social media but they know their way around life. They are Elders!

It’s like drinking Chilean Cabernet and never knowing Bordeaux. C’est tragique!


1. Who are the “elders” in your life you are listening to?

2. If you are an “elder” – where are you giving your leadership?

About the author / bobperkins

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