For those of you who saw Stephen Jenkinson in Victoria in June, I’m curious to know what you took away from his talk on Eldering in a Troubled Time?
For me, the core of his message was this: We are in deep trouble on the planet right now. We have a duty to the young and those yet unborn to do something about it. I can’t tell you what you should do about it. This is what I’m doing. And I’m giving it Everything I’ve Got.
Stephen’s message cracked me open. I shed many tears for 2 days.
Recently a friend of mine organized a blessing ceremony for his son on his 18th birthday. He brought together the men in his life—family and community members. Each man spoke their wisdom, and reflections on manhood. My friend described that it was not easy for the men, even a struggle to prepare for; a kind of reckoning process. But in the end, each participant felt blessed by the experience.
This blessing ceremony beautifully exemplifies an answer to the call to eldering. In the effort of passing wisdom to a young person, a struggle seems absolutely appropriate. There ought to be a reckoning. What exactly is this torch I am passing?
For me, Stephen’s talk inspired greater effort to expand my awareness of elders in my own bloodline. I learned some new things about my great-grandmother Lottie McAlister. She was a Suffragist and temperance activist, novelist and public speaker. She leveraged her privilege and education to fight for social change. She wrote that “the New Woman is a maternal feminist who proposes not only to rock the cradle for the world but rock the world for the cradle.” That’s an inheritance I’m inspired to live up to.
And as I do my small part to rock the world for my children, and all of our descendants for generations to come, I also rock the world for my ancestors. Because my life is a gift directly borne of their efforts. Because they are with me, and as I strive to deepen my embodiment of their strengths, so too do I seek to embody, welcome, integrate, and liberate their wounds, repressions, perpetrations, and dysfunctions, in the present, in my body, in community, right now.
Here is my prayer: May those of us disconnected from our ancestors, both living and dead, find healthy elders among them to guide us. May our healthy roots, however far back we must go to find them, help us to face and heal the parts in shadow. May deeper ties to our ancestors give us strength to be present and response-able to the times we are living in, the young, and those yet unborn. Let it be so.
(Thank you to Shauna Janz and Daniel Foor for their guidance and teachings in ancestral healing. Thank you to Ger Lyons for teaching me how to pray.)
Photo: Lottie McAlister circa 1888