Last Friday a woman from another Montana town stopped by the old school house to visit. She had a few hours to spend so sat down to watch the quilters and was encouraged to give it a try. She was hesitant at first to try stitching on the large quilts, so we found her a small piece of fabric and a hoop to practice on.
It is so encouraging to watch an adult learn something new. Of course any of us can learn something new if we put our minds to it. Sign up for a class to learn Spanish. Ask a friend to teach us how to grow corn in northwest Montana. Take an online writing course. Read a book about the history of China. It is surprising that with so many opportunities to learn a new thing, we often go through life assuming we know enough. Or that we are too busy to take the time to learn.
It isn’t necessary here to go into all the evidence how learning something new helps brains build connections between neurons. Or how research shows lifelong learning is connected to successful aging. The question is – why would any of us put off learning a new thing when there are so many options available? Mary Louise, one of the skilled quilters who comes to the old school house on Fridays, started quilting at ninety years old. Bev was in her eighties when she decided to learn how a smart phone works and now regularly texts, sends photos, and enters reminders. Shirley, a skilled musician in our town, recently told me she didn’t start playing accordion until she was in her sixties. Morgan, a busy parent with three children, wrote her first play and will direct it this December as part of the community theater.
We can all offer excuses at the end of the day. We are already doing too much, or are just too tired to take on one more thing, or – heaven forbid – we don’t need to learn anything else. But before you brush aside an opportunity to learn something new, think about it. Maybe it will only take a few hours a week to start studying Japanese. Maybe rather then mindless screen time, you can sign up for a class. Or ask a neighbor to teach you to weld. Or stop by the old school house on a Friday morning to learn to quilt.