At the end a pedestrian avenue near Victoria Park in Downtown Kitchener, and older man with silver hair and a silver moustache stops walking to look over at a sign that has the hashtag #ElderWisdom upon it.
“There is a lot of wisdom in the minds and experiences of our oldest teachers,” he says in an accent that’s hard to place. It could be Serbian, maybe? Albanian? Greek?
“I came to Canada from Cyprus when I was 21,” he says.
Though I have never been to Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, I once travelled from Athens overland to the Southern tip of Europe’s mainland in the Greek Peloponnesus. His eyes light up when I tell him about my travels, and a long conversation ensues.
His knowledge of ancient history and theology in the region is vast. He describes the ancient Gods for whom theatres and monuments I saw were named, and he describes the simplicity of the Greek language in terms of how each word breaks down in parts logically.
I ask if he perhaps taught history at the university, or had a background in philosophy.
“I worked my life in construction with a pick and a shovel,” he says. His daughters are the ones with the advanced degrees.
“Intelligence is what you make it,” he tells me. “There are many books in the library, and when I would feel depressed or down, I would go to the library and read philosophy or history or religion.”
He says intelligence, no matter how it comes, allows you to know that what you are doing in life is good or bad and what the consequences of your decisions might be.
His name is Chris Kyprianou and for nearly an hour he shares his wisdom with me. He is not among the residents from five local Schlegel Villages who had come to sit upon the Green Bench as part of the #ElderWisdom campaign, but that is what makes this conversation special.
Throughout the month of June, the green benches have successfully descended upon five Ontario cities with various residents sharing their insights with others, reminding people of the wealth of wisdom our elders hold and encouraging them to take the time to learn from them.
The conversations have been varied and rich, just as this one is with Chris. He was a stranger when I met him and after an hour, we know each other as friends.
To all the residents, organizers and guests who took time to heed the message and share a moment with a stranger, offering wisdom and conversation, thank you. The spirit of the #ElderWisdom campaign will carry on well past the end of June, and we hope more people will take the time to see the life experience of our older citizens as a gift to be opened any time a conversation opportunity arises.