Elder Activists is a vision of individuals inspiring, educating and supporting each other to become actively engaged in creating the future that will be our legacy. The mission is to inspire people with stories of Elder Activists, motivate them to take action, and provide resources to support their personal growth and education.
Several months ago I read this essay by Weston Pew, an educator and facilitator, and was moved by his portrayal of the separation we embody in our lives and how to encounter and re-member our selves back into the beauty and web of life. As we move into summer, a time when we might have a bit more time for solitude, reflection, visiting with our beloveds, and being outdoors – perhaps his words will provide some sparks for re-membering and re-weaving our web of connection – for all life. – Lynne
Finding Our Way Home Weston Pew
My son, Mateo, recently turned three years old. It is impossible for me to witness his growth…without wondering what kind of planet we will be leaving them? Sometimes it feels as though when I cast my gaze out upon the world, I am witnessing, in slow motion, a shattering.
From one perspective something is breaking, from another something is being born. Many writers have offered names to this place in time: “the space between stories” (Charles Eisenstein) or the Great Turning. (Joanna Macy)
For those embedded in the modern western worldview, the shift into a new story would require a different way of seeing ourselves in relationship with others and the natural world -- seeing the interconnectedness of our living systems, (David Korten), or the universe as “communion of subjects rather than a collection of objects” (Thomas Berry,) and understanding that “The paradox of our age is that we have bigger houses but smaller families…more knowledge, but less judgment; more medicines, but less healthiness.” (Dr. Bob Moorehead)
These quotes speaks to how we have lost ourselves in the dream of progress and forgotten something essential to our very existence: Life itself is a miracle; and such a miracle can only be fully expressed through the practice of living in right relationship to ourselves, our communities, the natural world, and the cosmos itself.
Re-membering as an Act of Resistance and Resilience In this time of forgetting, as systems seem to be crumbling all around us, it is hard to know what to do and where to place one’s efforts for effective action. I am often reminded of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “fierce urgency of now,” or of the Buddhist precept of non-attachment.
I seek a third way, the process of re-membering – where we are not just recollecting, we are re-establishing membership with the larger living systems of which we are a part.
This is an inherently political act. It shatters the illusion of the separate self and re-stories and restores it back into the broader context of community, place, space, time, and history -- essential for the emergence of a more mature understanding of responsibility that takes into account the health and wellbeing of the larger living systems of which we are each a part.
How do we re-member and re-story? I believe many tools can be used to help facilitate this healing process such as culturally appropriate ceremonies and rituals that include grief, rites of passage, calendar celebrations, song and community singing, storytelling, community-supported gardens, dance, service work, and pilgrimage.
These tools restore us and ground us in the beingness of our humanity, allowing for the re-membering of the great tree of life and the reclamation of the miracle that we have been given on this pilgrimage that we call life.
On a personal level, one of the things that moves me the most...is that my great-great grandchildren will come to walk in the prayers of my footsteps and in turn lay down their own prayers for future generations.
Culturally appropriate rituals and ceremonies that include grief
Song and community singing, storytelling & dance
Community gardens, work, pilgrimage
Provide your self with time for ritual, reflection, re-membering
Share your stories, song, ritual and more with those you care about
Speak up and care for sacred spaces and each other
Weston Pew is an educator and facilitator, with MAs in experiential education and depth psychology. He is the founder of the Sacred Door Trail, a 200 mile non-denominational pilgrimage trail; and, of the Center for Relational Communities and Leadership.
Then how do we find hope? When I listen to the news, read the papers or my emails – I feel a sense of urgency. I hear that “our house is on fire;” the words of Greta Thunberg, a 16 year-old climate activist from Sweden. Is she being an alarmist? Or do her words provide an accurate metaphor?
Joanna Macy talks about “active hope” – when we assess a situation and identify the outcomes we hope for, considering all the obstacles, the pain and the truth – and then we determine our actions. We don’t wait until we are sure of success. Are we willing to see the truth of climate change, corporate greed and the future that we are stealing from our children?
This is our opportunity – to recognize this URGENCY and to ACT for the sake of our children.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), representing the world’s leading climate scientists, warned in October 2018 that the world has little more than a decade to bring emissions under control and halve them, to avoid grave consequences, including the die-off of coral reefs and devastation of many species.
According to a UN Report, May, 2019, as many as one million plant and animal species are now at risk of extinction, posing a dire threat to ecosystems that people all over the world depend on for their survival.
What can we do?
WORK TOGETHER -- individually we are each important but not sufficient to the task,
GET ENGAGED – we need every one of us, and there is room for everyone’s passion, energy and talents,
BE INSPIRED by the courageous actions of others. Although there are plenty of despairing new stories – choose to read YES! Magazine, Listen to Krista Tippet & find your inspiration.
Here are some of my hero/ines: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez offering us a “A Message From the Future” with her vision of how we got from this moment of confusion to a thriving future – well worth the 7 ½ minutes.
The spirited older women of Austria known as the Omas (Grandmothers) Against the Right – who are fighting the right wing coalition and standing up for democracy, equal rights and tolerance. “We see what is happening and we won’t look away. We are the generation that promised the horrors of the last century would never be repeated. We are the generation that had a future. Now we are seeing the futures of our children and our grandchildren hanging in the balance. We are not going to let that happen.”
Our “youngers” who are the Sunrise Movement – They are ordinary young folks who are scared about what the climate crises means for the places and people that they love, and for their future. They are strategically organizing to make climate change an urgent priority across our country, end the corrupting influence of fossil fuel executive on our politics and elect leaders who will stand up for the health and wellbeing of all people. They welcome “elder allies” to their meetings and actions – and are so appreciative that we are standing with them. Find a “Hub” near you!
Finally – the Green New Deal -- a feasible and affordable plan to address the climate and social justice issues in the U.S. It is not perfect but it will move us in the right direction! It will:
end the emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) in order to stop global warming,
guarantee lower-cost, high-quality health coverage for all, and
ensure decent jobs and living standards for all Americans.
Could this really be affordable? YES! The U.S. spends 17% of its Gross Domestic Product on health care coverage, while other countries spend 10 – 12% with better health outcomes. Learn more by reading this article.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Allow yourself to feel your own pain for our world and for our children.
Speak with your friends, family, colleagues. Ask them, “What do you think about the climate crises?” What can we do together?”
Get active and engaged! Here are some good organizations to begin:
We are a few days away from what may be the most important election of our time. I am an American, a naturalized immigrant, a Jew, a mom and grandma -- facing the threat that perhaps my American born children will no longer be citizens.
My heart is broken for the families of those who have been the victims of the incredible hatred that surrounds us. The loss that they have experienced is unimaginable. When I close my eyes I see the numbered tattoo on my cousin’s arm, I hear the voice of my father telling the story of the liberation of Bergen Belsen concentration camp in Germany. Are we as a nation not better than this?
My heart also is breaking for what may lie ahead for our grandchildren, all future generations and democracy as we know it. Will we abandon all civility and allow hatred to dominate our lives and destroy our democracy? Will we allow continued degradation of our laws until there are no protections for the health and wellbeing of our residents? There are times when I feel completely helpless and then I realize each of us must stand up for what we believe.
If you have not already done so, please VOTE. Your future depends on it as does the future of all of the grandchildren. We remember all the victims of senseless hate and violence and we stand with the survivors. The elder voice is critical, VOTE on November 6th.
For the our grandchildren, future generations and all life,
GERI FRIEDMAN is the co-convener of Elders Climate Action, and is a board member of the Elders Action Network. She has been inspired to become an activist in her elders years by her love for her grandchildren. Before retiring she worked in social services and government administration, and was active in the women’s movement, the war and the environment before her career and family.
Three days ago I learned about Grannies Respond/Abuelas Responden. I read the website and tears welled up – which is not typical for me. I thought, “Here is a group of elders who are putting their hearts and spirits into action.”
“Over six days, beginning July 31, the caravan will journey more than 2,000 miles, onboarding other “grannies” along the way. They will host rallies in strategic political districts in cities along the way to protest the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy for immigrants and asylum seekers.
Beginning with a rally in New York City, Grannies Respond will make stops in Reading and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Louisville, Kentucky; Montgomery, Alabama; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Houston, Texas; before finally reaching a detainment facility in either McAllen or Brownsville, Texas.” So read the story in YES! Magazine.
I decided to join them. I hate bus rides. I sit up front so that I won’t get nauseous. My back hurts after driving in the car for a couple of hours. The bathrooms smells. So, why am I doing this?
This year I have challenged myself to “live as though the truth was really true”
If I believe that what is happening on our southern border is wrong. If I believe that my government is acting in my name. If I believe that as an elder I have a responsibility to speak up for the welfare of the children, the future generation – how can I not join this journey? I am appalled at what our government is doing -- using innocent children for political gain, and destroying families who are fleeing dangerous conditions in their home communities.
I am thrilled that this journey is happening. I want to stand with the other Grannies, and speak what I believe to be true -- to love the stranger, to care for those whose lives are threatened, to be compassionate, to welcome the “tired, the poor the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
I want to again believe in the principles of our nation – even as I understand that our history has never fully lived those values. I feel so ashamed of our president and our government, and the lack of integrity of our elected leaders. I don’t want to give up or move away.
I want to reclaim my country and our values. Sometimes I lack the personal know how, courage or energy to figure out how to fix the issues and injustices that I see -- and I am grateful that there are others also doing this work, finding their voice, acting together.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. (Margaret Mead)
WHAT CAN YOU DO? Join the Caravan, and/or offer your support. Check out the Facebook page Show up for their rallies: Tuesday, July 31st, New York City Tuesday, July 31st, Berks Detention Center, Reading, PA Wednesday, Aug 1st, Pittsburgh Thursday, Aug 2nd, Louisville, KY Friday, Aug 3rd, Montgomery, AL Saturday, Aug. 4th, New Orleans, LA Sunday, Aug 5th, Houston, TX Monday, Aug 6th, McAllen TX
“Old Farts” Group Protest Results in Arrest of 6 at ICE in Philadelphia”
As a group of elders we wanted to call attention to what was happening to the three thousand children that had been forcibly taken from their parents when they entered the United States from our southern border. We were appalled that our government would harm children in this way. Have you ever witnessed a children or a parent that have lost each other in a public place? The child is crying, the parent is near hysteria with fear. Imagine if they were not able to find each other. Imagine if they were in a strange country, where everyone was speaking a different language. Could you imagine the fear? The terror?
These families have survived the arduous journey to come to the United States – in most cases fleeing situations in their home country where their lives have been threatened, relatives have been killed, children or women taken as hostages or been raped. These parents are not coming here for the “good life” – they are coming to the U.S. seeking asylum.
As a grandmother and mother of five children my heart went out to those parents and children. I know that this treatment is inhumane, uncaring and unethical – because we don’t use children to further political agendas. These policies of putting families, with young children, into detention, and of separating families at the border must stop.
I was not alone in my concern. Friends invited me to a meeting, where they were discussing how to bring attention to this issue. There had been many protests at the local ICE -- Immigration and Customs Enforcement – office, and we wanted to keep up the pressure. We decided to arrive early, stand in front of the door with a banner, and not allow anyone to enter or leave.
We’re elders with years of experience, resources and networks! A lawyer friend advised us about what might happen. His daughter, a journalist, helped get our press release to the media. Another man, a disability rights attorney, informed his clients who decided to show up – and, added their powerful presence. One woman, a professor, wrote our press release. Two other women put together facts about immigration – which was read as part of our demonstration. Another friend wrote chants and gathered songs, and another showed up with a guitar and portable microphone. One woman is a rabbi and knows how to lead a service – so she was the natural emcee. We had a retired physician’s assistant, fluent in Spanish, who gave an interview with Spanish language press. Several of use wrote 3 minutes “speeches.”
We each agreed that we would elicit five other people to come down and join us – either to “risk arrest” or stand in support. In the end 4 of us stood and 2 of us sat, in front of the ICE office door blocking the door for 2 ½ hours; about 70 others joined us on the streets, and many, many others honked their horns as they passed by.
What did we accomplish?
We learned that we could easily organize and take a stand for something that was important to all of us.
We had good media coverage, and several of us were quoted on NPR, and the local TV stations each ran small segments.
People were inspired – maybe empowered. Many people noticed that old folks were standing and speaking as elders. It garnered attention.
A local councilwoman attended and powerfully adding her voice to ours.
We got worldwide press coverage with “85 year old Rabbi Gets Arrested.”
Young people loved us and noticed. We were called “Old Farts” by one of our own. I cringed –but then I paid attention. “Old Farts” went viral. Young folks were impressed, they want “to be like the Old Farts” when they are old. They offered us bail money. They/we were touched that we/they cared.
I still believe that it is important to act like an elder. To raise our moral voice and stand for the principles and values that we know are critical to a healthy society, speaking for the welfare of all – most especially the children.
But now I am willing to also be called an Old Fart -- and not take myself so seriously! I’ve learned that it can be an endearing term, an embrace of old age in a jocular kind of way -- so, although I want to stand as an elder I am now OK about being called an “Old Fart.”
Get together with friends and consider if there is something you want to do together. You don’t need to risk arrest. You can speak up in City Council. Attend a community meeting – identify yourself as an elder.