The parable about the old donkey
When someone throws dirt on you, shake it off and rise above it
You might have heard the parable about the donkey who fell into a well? It can be found many places on the internet. It goes something like this. One day an old donkey fell into a well. While listening to the cries of the animal, the farmer tried to come up with ways to save him. Eventually, he decided the donkey was too old to save and the pit had dried out anyway and needed to be filled up. He asked his neighbors for help and they started to shovel dirt into the well. At first the donkey started crying even louder, but then he suddenly stopped. The farmer thought the donkey had died and looked down only to see that he was very much alive. He was shaking off every palate of dirt, as it hit his back and then stepped on it. Eventually he was able to make his way out of the well.
The moral of the story is of course to not let life knock you down. We can get out of the deepest pits if we don't give up.
In the context of Ageing Upwards there are few more messages one can take away from this story. The first one is that we do not become useless when we get older. Throughout life, we all experience difficulties and make mistakes. We all fall into various of metaphorical wells along the way. Being old, doesn´t mean we no longer have the capacity to cope with them and come up with our own solutions and ways to adapt.
The second message of the story is to not let the dirt that others throw at you stop you from living. Age is not our main problem, ageism is. The way others talk about us and treat us can limit us in pursuing fulfilling lives. It can even kill us prematurely.
Thirdly, this parable illustrates the reality that once we have the label “old” attached to us, we should be prepared for being abandoned by some. Ageism is real and we will not be offered the same attention and opportunities anymore as we did when we were 30. This needs to change of course, but unfortunately this way of thinking about age is so fully ingrained on our culture that it will not go away overnight. We cannot afford to wait for society to change, but we can take responsibility for our own life and happiness by staying curious and mentally flexible. We can continue to develop new friendships, areas of interest and competencies. We can continue to grow our network of support.
Finally, I can´t help pointing out another slightly cheeky moral to the story. If you have a job that needs doing (as in filling up an old well for instance), just call upon the help from an older person. Most likely, he or she will be able to come up with a creative way to get your neighbors to collaborate and help you – maybe even by putting her own life on the line. Or maybe I am starting to read too much into the story?
Curious to learn practical ways to Age Upwards? Join me online on the course starting Thursday the 17th of August 2023 at 5pm – 7pm (CEST).