The Wisdom of Perspective

Like everyone else, I am disturbed by the tragic news that is so frequently reported from the media. I am saddened by the discourse among people who disagree because there such a lack of respect for one another.  At times it feels like everything is falling apart around us and my gut clenches. Where will this all end?

When this is my response to the most recent news report, I know it is time for my own inner reflection.  It is time to remember other times in my life when I felt like that world was falling apart and I could see no way out.

I remember the fear we felt during the Cold War.  The nuclear build-up was enormous and from childhood to young adulthood, I wondered if we could ever avoid annihilation.  Then, to the world’s amazement, the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet Union fell apart.  Nuclear weapons were dismantled and fear lessened.

I also remember well the painful chaos of the sixties with assassinations and violent protests.  I wondered then if the fight for civil rights for African Americans could ever be won.  I wondered when we could get out of the war that destroyed so many of our soldiers as well as the Vietnamese.  Would we continue to see our national leaders assassinated?  Eventually the mood of the country settled when we withdrew from Vietnam and civil rights legislation was passed.

When I reflect on the destructive attacks by ISIS, I feel like we have been here before.  When I observe the painful race relations demonstrated by the killing of police and of young black men, I know this is not without precedent.

As an “elder-in-training,” I believe it is my obligation to share the wisdom that comes from decades of life experience.  My belief is that we need not give up in despair.  We have weathered equally difficult periods of history.    Personally, I see the truth of the old adage, “Violence begets violence.”  None of the conflicts described above were settled by violence but rather by engagement.  Our hope for today is to find a way to help all parties to recognize the humanity of one another.

It is for each of us in the Third Chapter of life to determine how we can best contribute our wisdom to a solution that will bring us into a more peaceful era.  According to the Hopi Tribe, “When the grandmothers speak, the world will be healed.”  It is time for the grandmothers to speak.

Catching On to the Movement

I just registered to attend the biennial conference of Sage-ing International in Loveland, Colorado this October. The theme is Wisdom and Spirit in Action.   There will be a series of speakers who are experts in various aspects of aging in a meaningful, purposeful way. There will be talks on spirituality, inter-generational conversation, healthy aging, legacy, service and more.  This is an opportunity to learn more about the richness available in the Third Chapter of life. It is a an easy one day drive from Omaha!

To learn more, check out their website.   I am convinced that if more of us choose conscious eldering as a way of life, our communities and world will benefit.  This is an international movement and my hope is that it will catch on fire!

Communities that Sustain Us

One concern that people express is that as they age they may become isolated from the world. When spouses die and families are far away, this is a real concern. We all know people who have lost their love for life because they are alone. It takes effort to reach out to make social connections but without it, our mental and emotional well-being will certainly diminish.

It appears to me that people who are engaged in a variety of groups when their health is good are more likely to remain engaged as they age. One 91 year-old friend has played bridge when her friends ever since she retired. She continues playing bridge to this day! In spite a waning health, her engagement with family, friends and church continue to stimulate her, bringing joy to her and to her companions.

For those of us who are elders-in-training, it is useful to think about the social groups that energize us and meet our various needs. Cultivating a variety of communities and friendships now is one way to prevent the tragedy of isolation. Investing in friendships, participating in volunteer group activities, joining clubs or interest groups, participating in church activities, book groups are just a few ways to maintain a social networks. These will support us as we face the challenges of aging.

Re-invention by The New Christy Minstrels

Last week I had the pleasure of hearing a concert by The New Christy Minstrels.  One needs to be a certain age in order for this to mean something.  I remember watching them on television when I was a teen in the early 60s. I loved folk music and the harmonies of this talented group.  Music tastes changed and I forgot about them except when I catch one of the retrospective music programs on PBS.

When I saw an article in the paper saying The New Christy Minstrels would be performing at a Brownville, 80 miles away, I enlisted two friends to go with me down memory lane. To my surprise, it was much more than memories.  The group leader, Randy Sparks, reinvented the group to provide a whole new, rich experience.  At 82, he has more to offer than ever.

All the band members are “eligible to order off the back page of the Denny’s menu” except one (Randy’s words).  All are extremely talented and there is no sign of stagnation.  Sparks has written many new songs, revealing that creativity does on have an expiration date.  His humor was perfect for the Third Chapter crowd he was playing to.  He laughed with us–not at us– regarding the physical maladies we understand too well. There was a gentle good humor among the members of the group that demonstrated what can be achieved when ego is no the longer the dominant motivation.  This group genuinely enjoys the music and one another.

Another  sign that Randy Sparks and his group are living with purpose and meaning is the fact that the profit from their concert tours is allowing them to share their music with children and youth without charge.  They decided they can make a contribution to their own age group and to future generations.

I was touched by the great example that The New Christy Minstrels are giving on how to live their lives fully, no matter what their age.  I am pretty sure they would say that this is the happiest of times for them.

 

 

 

 

 

We Are Not Finished Yet

Our youth-centered culture has largely undermined the role of “elders,” assuming that people have made their contribution by the time they retire and now are of limited use to society. In fact, aging people are viewed by some as a social problem, draining resources away from children and younger adults. Unfortunately, many of us in this stage have internalized this myth and see little purpose in our lives. We worry about being a “burden” on our children and society as a whole.

There is an alternative viewpoint! It is important that elders make a contribution to society that can ONLY come from those who have gained wisdom from decades of life experience. Instead of seeing ourselves as liability for society, using up resources from Social Security and Medicare, we have the opportunity and the obligation to make a vital contribution to the well-being of our community, our country and our world.

This raises the personal question, “What is it I have to offer?” Another way to frame the question is “What is my purpose now that my family is raised and my full-time career is complete.” These are questions worth mulling. The well-being of society is not only in the hands of the young but rests with us as well.
Our unique gifts which have ripened over time will benefit future generations.

Creating our Legacy

Before Christmas I gathered with my siblings to have our holiday celebration. We are all into the Third Chapter and have the flexibility of coming together on a week-day. It was delightful to have time to tell stories and share memories–something we commonly do when we get together.

I decided to ask a probing question before we went our separate ways. I asked, “What is one non-material legacy that you want to pass on to the next generation?” The responses were marvelous! Each person had a heartfelt value that he or she learned over a lifetime. “Trust God no matter how difficult life gets because somehow things will work out for the best.” “Be inclusive of people who may be different from us. They have something to share and deserve to be heard.” “Don’t be afraid to take risks. Everything worthwhile requires some risks.” “Instead of focusing on the evils of the world, look at the helpers, those who are doing good things every day This is where we get our hope.” “Don’t take yourself too seriously. Keep your humor.”

When I think about my family members who shared these beliefs and values, I know that these really are what they are passing on to the next generation because this is how they live their lives now. These are the things for which they will be remembered.

What is your legacy?