There are several things that I am glad my parents instilled in me at a young age, and learning to hold a conversation with my elders would be one of them. Looking back, I think my parents did it by locking the screen door behind us when we went outside.
I grew up out in the country; our community did not have a red light, grocery store, or a fast food joint. It was wonderful! I remember being 21 years old when our first red light was installed, and that was because we were getting a grocery store. It was a community that was very safe, and where everyone knew each other. I’m not sure how old my brother and I were exactly (sometime in elementary school), but during the summers and weekends our mother would send us outside for the day. In the mornings, we would be ushered out the front door and the screen door would be locked behind us. The only time we came back inside was at lunch time, if we had to go to the bathroom, or if medical attention was necessary (which happened a lot).
We had about four elderly widows living in a cluster down the road from us, and our parents made sure we went to visit/entertain/annoy them often. As soon as my brother was old enough, he was sent to mow all of their yards during the warmer months. I am pretty sure our dad told them not to pay him, but I don’t think my brother would have taken the money even if they tried. We would put on plays for them, talk about school, and I would show them my dance for my upcoming ballet recital while my brother laughed. Our parents expected us to make sure these women felt remembered, needed, and that they got out of their house- even if it was to the front porch to rock in the rocking chairs listening to two kids.
This character building “experiment” worked. Maybe our mother just wanted quiet in the house to relax, regardless she made the right decision to have us visit the ladies. It taught me empathy, let me explore my imagination, and built my communication skills with people in different age groups than myself.
When I visit the nursing home now, I still sit on the porch with them and take in the scenery. One gentleman always speaks of how beautiful the sun feels on his skin, and he is just lovely describing how that feels.