The WordPress Daily Prompt writing challenge for this week threw off my game while opening me up to new ideas. The challenge was to pretend to be an advice columnist (like Dear Abby, for those in the United States), and write and answer a sample letter. That seemed simple enough. I’ve been kicking this world around for a few decades and people are always coming to me for advice, so how hard could this be? It turned out to be a lot harder than I thought.
I wasn’t coming up with good ideas on my own, so I decided to go visit some real life online advice givers. I found the ElderWisdomCircle and was amazed with the work they are doing.
They describe their mission:
The ElderWisdomCircleTM is an online inter-generational program pairing advice seekers with a network of seniors (“Elders”) who provide empathetic, caring, and supportive advice based on their own life experiences.
I read some of the sample letters and answers. I was amazed at the depth and quality of the responses. I was so impressed that I looked into applying to be an elder. You have to be over 60 to join, and I am, can write, which I can, and have good computer skills, which I do. I downloaded the application. The first page was simple, asking for contact information and a little biography. Easy enough. Then came the essay questions, which I loved answering:
- Based upon your experience what do you believe constitutes good advice? Why?
- How would you handle giving advice to someone whose values or beliefs are different from your own?
- Do you believe the problems we face today, as individuals and as a society, are any lesser or greater than in past generations? Briefly explain.
Those questions made you think, didn’t they? Keep them in mind the next time you offer advice to someone.
Then came the tough part. You had to pick two sample questions and answer them. Maybe it would have been easier to do if I hadn’t read the sample answers first. It was a challenge to live up to those standards. I was wordless.
So my hopes of becoming a famous advice columnist are dashed, at least for today, but I came away from the experience knowing more about myself, my values and my genuine compassion for other people.