Eldering Charlie

I had the opportunity to try out this eldering thing last night. I went to my almost 17 year old grandson’s wrestling meet last night. There were three matches (Charlie told me not to call them games). The first was between Little Falls, my grandson’s team, and Milaka, the second between Milaca and Sartell and the third between Little Falls and Sartell. This meant that I could sit for an hour and watch Charlie’s team play, oops I mean compete, and then sit for an hour to await his second chance to compete. After the first meet, Charlie told me i could go home if I wanted to but I told him no, I wanted to stay and see how Little Falls would do later. He sat down next to me. I told him that if he wanted to go sit with his friends he could. He said no, he would sit with me.

I was thrilled to have his ear because I knew nothing about wrestling and wrestling can be really boring when you don’t understand what is going on. So, as the match  proceeded, I began to ask him questions such as how points were made and what it means when a wrestler is pinned. Why did the wrestlers begin their match standing and facing each other and other times on the mat with one kneeling down in front of the other? As we watched the wrestlers, I had him explain to me what was happening, what the ref was telling them. He pointed out the good moves, the techniques being used by the better wrestlers.

When his coach called him to regroup with his teammates, I felt so much more in-the-know about the sport and when Little Falls faced Sartell in the next match, I found myself actually knowing when to cheer. It was exciting.

I think Charlie truly enjoyed teaching his grandmother. Eldering is not always teaching a young person. Sometimes it comes in the form of letting them teach you.

Posted in Family, Life | 2 Comments

What does it mean to be an Elder?

I was having a conversation with some friends recently and we were talking about how our Native American neighbors demonstrate such respect for their elders. I experienced this first hand when, years ago, I brought a group of teens from the church where I worked to do service on Minnesota’s Red Lake Reservation. There is a Catholic mission there where Benedictine sisters manage a school. They have a large old convent where we stayed. The pastor and the Sisters had worked together to make our visit meaningful. We did service for the parish and the school and they arranged for speakers to come to educate us about the history of Red Lake and Native American traditions. We toured the reservation including their turtle-shaped school and visited some of the older towns up around the lake where some of the more ancient traditions such as burial rites were still being practiced. The highlight was a dinner put on especially for us by the women which included fish fresh out of Red Lake and Indian Bread.  It was a warm, joyous occasion.

Over our time there, it was common for our speakers/meal planners to show up a bit later than we expected. I found this disconcerting and a bit disrespectful. But Father Bill, who clearly loved the Red Lake people, informed me that they operated on Indian time. “For the Native people,” he said, “The most important person in the world is the one you are talking to right now. It is not polite to rush a person when they are having a conversation with you.  So while we white people are all worried about being disrespectful by being late, they feel it is disrespectful to cut someone off who may need to be listened to.” This is where the term “Indian time” comes from and I understand that it is typical indigenous trait.

The tribe knew we were eager to learn and to serve and the social director of the nursing home invited us to come and spend some time with their Elders. Each of the teens was given a book with questions to ask and they were to interview the Elders and write the answers in the books. These books were to be given to the families of the patients after they pass on. Later, back at the convent, the teens talked about their experience over pizza.

The respect the Native people show for the Elders didn’t escape their notice. The social director spoke to them at length at how the Native people look to their Elders to be keepers of their heritage and to gain wisdom. Unlike what they had experienced back home where kids tended to rebel against guidance from older people, the Native people accepted this guidance and demonstrated respect and gratitude.

Anyone who  has ever attended a Minnesota Pow Wow knows that there is a special place set aside for the elders in the grandstands and honoring them is always an important part of the opening ceremony.

The friends I was having this conversation with were elders themselves. Most were in the 60’s or 70’s. We talked about what it means to be an elder in our own culture where elders are not necessarily honored. The term “elderly” connotes dependence and loss. We wondered: Do we have something important to share with younger generations and, if so, how do we go about sharing it? One thing we all agreed about is that we have to be sure to spend time with younger people rather than always hanging around older people.

Many of us were grandparents and several stories were shared about meaningful conversations with grandchildren. We talked about the importance of good listening and resisting the temptation to preach. “We need to encourage them,” one person said. “When my grandson shares some radical idea, instead of arguing with him, I tell him what a deep thinker he is.” Another suggested that we need to be cautious, though. If a young person is harboring ideas that are wrong, we should tell them the truth. “We can be respectful, though,” she said. “I say something like, ‘I used to believe the same thing, but I later learned that that doesn’t work.'”

Another person suggested that when they are talking about something harmful, we shouldn’t hold back the truth just because we want to be nice to them. We want them to know that we love them enough to tell them the truth about harms that could happen to them.”

It was an important discussion for Elders to be having. While many of us wish our young people would want to listen and learn from us, we need to consider how we approach them. Take advantage of teachable moments and always speak with respect and love.

Posted in Life | 6 Comments

Alone place with God

My daughter, Kate, gave me a book for Christmas that she knew I would love. The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers: Spiritual Insights From the World’s Most Beloved Neighbor. The chapter I read this morning was on prayer and I want to share just one thought that touched me this morning:

There are some things that are eternally reserved in privacy between the individual soul and the Creator. There is a dimension of delicate pain in this, but even in our aloneness we together, for we each have it.”

It never occurred to me before reading this that the loneliness I sometimes feel may just be that special space set aside for just my Creator and I. Perhaps this is the closet that Jesus was talking about to which he called us to pray, to be alone with our Creator.

Posted in Spirituality | 1 Comment

Richard Rohr’s: The Universal Christ

I am looking forward to Richard Rohr’s book, The Universal Christ, due to be released in March. I have read several of Rohr’s books and last Spring I took a course on the internet based on his book, Immortal Diamond. Rohr has an understanding of Jesus that speaks to my heart.

For years I had trouble calling myself a Christian because I could not accept the Jesus as portrayed by some Christian groups. I couldn’t relate to him. This is the reason I wrote The Memorial of Jesus. I wanted to create a Jesus that would have captured my heart had I been able to walk with him. As I get feedback from people who have read my book it is his humanity that they most appreciate.

One line I recall from a description of Rohr’s new book is “Christ was not Jesus’ last name.” Rohr’s work has a universal appeal. While he claims that Jesus is his central reference point, he says that his life and community, the Center for Action and Contemplation’s Work,  are guided by this principle: “We will support true authority, the ability to ‘author’ life in others, regardless of the group.” He goes on to explain that “truth simply shows up in various ages and cultures through different vocabulary and images. Throughout the world’s religions and philosophies, recurring themes point to humanity’s longing for union with Divine Reality. There are many paths to union.”

To say that there are more paths to God is not to diminish Jesus, at least not how Rohr teaches. I would say that the Christ in Jesus is the Christ in us all. It is nothing less than the Divine Spirit breathed into humankind at the beginning of creation. As the Quakers would say, it is “that of God” in each of us. That divine spark is not withheld from anyone and I believe that it is the role of religion to awaken believers to that divine spark that is already in them.

Posted in Life | 1 Comment

The New Year

When I neglect my blog, it locks me out. The little “edit” option disappears from my page and I have to go through the process of seeking out my administration page and proving to WordPress that I am who I say I am and not some kind of blog robber. My blog guru son as finally taught me how to do this for myself. Oh, he taught me many times before now but he finally got the process through my thick skull.

Christmas was the distraction. My blog is not the only thing that suffered neglect. So did my eating program, my exercise regime, my sewing, and any other of my usual life activities. Yesterday, Bernie and I took down the Christmas decorations and today threw out the tree and vacuumed up the pine needles. The house looks a bit naked after all that dingle-dangle stuff draped on the beams, banisters, and window frames, the little ceramic Santas and angels on end tables and book cases, and holiday towels on racks in bathrooms and kitchens. It seems we keep adding stuff each year. I prefer naked, at least as far as my living space is concerned.

About a week ago I bought a new 2019 calendar and spent a couple of hours bringing forward events such as birthdays and all my weekly and monthly meetings. I complain a lot about how busy my life is, but in doing this meditative activity, I realize I rather like the things I do, my daily routine of reading and writing, the groups to which I belong, and the family events including holidays and kids concerts and sporting events. At 74, I still get around pretty darned good.

So I made a promise to myself that in 2019 I will complain less and try to walk through my days with an attitude of gratitude.

Happy New Year.

Posted in Blogging, Family | 5 Comments

Thoughts on Tolerance

“I think the word tolerance is weak. I prefer the word appreciation, especially if we are talking about dealing with people of different cultural values or religious beliefs. Appreciation implies that I see the good in another person’s choice. Tolerance falls short. It means accepting differences but there is still wiggle room to think my way is better. Tolerance compels me to hold my tongue when I disagree and to afford someone a level of respect. Appreciation, on the other hand, says, ‘I see that you are finding peace and serenity in the path you have chosen and that makes me happy for you.'”

“Tolerance of one’s self is important. When a person is not proud of his behavior, tolerance can mean accepting one’s self, warts and all. The opposite is expecting perfection. We need to have a sense of humor about ourselves. If we can be tolerant of our shortcoming, it is easier to be tolerant of others.”

“When I think of tolerance, I think of the word patience. Patience allows room for growth and change in others and in myself. I am imperfect but I can expect to get better as I mature. When I am patient with others, I find myself less judgmental, less irritated when people have different ideas or different lifestyles.”

“The intolerance I have for another person’s choices, whether life-style or religion, might be based on my awareness that their choice might be harmful. I may or may not say something, but I will always pray for them. It has happened that what needed changing is not their choice but my attitude. Then I am glad I didn’t act on my judgment.”

“I think gratitude is important. It is deeper than tolerance. I can be grateful for the path another has chosen because of what it has done for them. And empathy, too. Sometimes people make bad decisions and find themselves on a path that is not working for them. I try to remember that I might have done that too.”

“Tolerance can make life in society go more smoothly, but it should be more than simply keeping hatred in one’s heart contained. Eventually hatred unchecked leaks out or erupts. We see this kind of eruption on the news every day. Tolerance that comes from the heart is much better.”

“I heard it said that hatred corrodes any container that carries it. In other words, the person who hates is damaged as much as the one they hate. It is better to root out the hatred. Tolerance can be kind of a temporary measure until the hatred is rooted out.”

Posted in Life, Spirituality | 3 Comments

My Life is Raw Material

When I run out of books to read, I find myself going to my own bookcase and searching for the ones I bought with good intentions but never got around to reading. A few days ago, I pulled from the shelf Essays and Poems by Ralph Waldo Emerson. I bought it about a year ago after a friend commented that he was reading Emerson. It is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics collection. One can get it inexpensively through Amazon. A while back I read Varieties of Religious Experience from this same series. It is easy to see why these are considered classics. They speak universal truths. I find myself penciling a sentence in just about every paragraph and writing my story in the margins.

Having complained about how my life seems to get into the way of my passion, I find this morning that this is a universal problem for artistic people. Emerson offers comfort as he shows how important life experience is to the artist. I love this quote from his essay, “The American Scholar”:

Only so much do I know, as I have lived.

Simply put, if I don’t live my life, there is nothing to write about. I believe this applies to all artistic expressions including visual and performing arts. Watching the The Kominsky Method on Netflix last night, lead character/drama teacher, Sandy Kominsky, made this exact point to his drama students. Julia Cameron, in The Artist’s Way, says the same.

More Emerson wisdom:

The world, – this shadow of the soul or other me, lies wide around me. Its attractions are the keys which unlock my thoughts and make me acquainted with myself…I do not see how any man can afford, for the sake of his nerves and his nap, to spare any action in which he can partake. It is pearls and rubies to his discourse. Drudgery, calamity, exasperation, want, are instructors in eloquence and wisdom. 

Gads, Ralph! You have been reading my blogs from your heavenly place and noting my constant complaining about having so much to do that I can’t get around to writing! If I were George Bailey you would be my Clarence.

I guess I should say, “Thanks for dropping by and helping me to appreciate my life as…

raw material out of which the intellect moulds her splendid products. 

Today I go to watch my grandson Jackson’s Christmas concert. Raw material at its best.

Posted in Blogging, Life, Writing | 2 Comments