How to Honour the Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Most of us who are Boomers can remember exactly where we were and what we were doing when it was announced that, tragically,  Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated. While I was just a young child at the time, I do remember how devastated people were by the news. Yet, inspired by MLK’s dream for a better world, people continued to fight for equal rights for blacks and all people of colour. If the horrific events of the last couple of years have anything to teach us, it is that now more than ever we must renew our resolve to work for justice for everyone who suffers from discrimination, whether it be because of the colour of their skin, their race or religion, their gender or sexual orientation, their age or differing abilities, their economic or social class.

As Boomers and older adults we still have a role to play in this fight. We can act as witnesses to the powerful legacy that Martin Luther King Jr. left us. We can share our stories with the young people in our lives. We can read aloud his “I Have a Dream” speech and invite them to consider how together we can carry on the work of this great man.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said: “We are prone to judge success by the index of our salaries or the size of our automobiles, rather than by the quality of our service relationship to humanity.”

Now in the second half of life, many of us are in a unique position to give back to our churches and our communities. If MLK were among us he would be the first to remind us that there is something more important than bread and cars and air-conditioned rooms and that the world needs us. It is never too late to think about what our legacy will be to the generations that follow us. Not sure where you can best serve? Check out Volunteer Canada.   In London, Ontario, you can also check out Volunteer London. But wherever you live, you can find information from your local municipality about the various organisations that desperately need your help. Don’t forget that churches and faith communities need good volunteers as well, as does your local school.

Remember: You can make a difference. Why not honour the memory of Martin Luther King Jr. and start today!

Let’s Try to ELIMINATE THE ‘AFTER’S’ FROM OUR LIFE!

A friend sent this to me the other day. The author is unknown but the words are so powerful I have decided to share them with you in today’s blog post.  Hope you find them as helpful as I have!

 “Barely the day started and

it’s already six in the evening.

Barely arrived on Monday

and it’s already Friday.

.. and the month is already over.

.. and the year is almost over.

.. and already 40, 50 or 60 years

of our lives have passed.

.. and we realize that we lost

our parents, friends.

.. and we realize it’s too late

to go back.

So.. Let’s try, despite

everything, to enjoy

the remaining time.

Let’s keep looking for

activities that we like.

Let’s put some color in

our grey.

Let’s smile at the little

things in life that put

balm in our hearts.

And despite everything,

we must continue to enjoy

with serenity this time we

have left.

Let’s try to eliminate the

afters..

I’m doing it after.

I’ll say after.

I’ll think about it after.

We leave everything for

later like ′′ after ′′ is ours.

Because what we don’t

understand is that:

Afterwards, the coffee

gets cold.

afterwards, priorities change.

Afterwards, the charm is

broken.

Afterwards, health passes.

Afterwards, the kids grow up.

Afterwards parents get old.

Afterwards, promises are

forgotten.

Afterwards, the day becomes

the night.

Afterwards, life ends.

And then it’s often too late.

So.. Let’s leave nothing for

later.

Because still waiting to see

later, we can lose the

best moments, the best

experiences, best friends,

the best family.

The day is today. The

moment is now.

We are no longer at the

age where we can afford

to postpone what needs

to be done right away.”

It Looks Like An Eternity,

But It’s A Short Trip,

Enjoy Life And Always

Be Kind. 

  • Author Unknown

A PRAYER FOR THE NEW YEAR

I pray that your Christmas and New Year’s celebrations were happy and meaningful, even though it was necessary, again this year, to keep the festivities quieter and more intimate.

Recently I have been reading a wonderful book by Rabbi Rachel Cowan and Dr. Linda Thal, Wise Aging. Living with Joy, Resilience, & Spirit. While the authors draw mostly from their background in Jewish wisdom, they also reflect on Christian and Buddhist traditions, making their book ideal reading for Boomers and older adults of many different backgrounds.

One ritual they recommend is one that I have decided to make my New Year’s practice this year. It’s based on the Jewish bedtime Sh’ma or prayer, which invites us to examine our conscience at the end of the day and reflect on our frustrations, or the hurts that we have experienced (or inflicted) and how these have impacted our relationships.  By fully forgiving those who have hurt us, either intentionally or unintentionally, and by acknowledging our own failings and weaknesses, we are ready for our evening rest and able to look forward to a new day and a new beginning.

Why not give it a try before you close your eyes tonight?

I now forgive
all who have hurt me,
all who have done me wrong;
whether deliberately or by accident,
whether by word or by deed, or by thought.
whether against my pride, my person, or my property
in this incarnation or in any other. May no one,
be punished on my account.

May it be Your will, Eternal One, My God and the God of my parents, that I be no more bound by the wrongs which I have committed, that I be free from patterns which cause pain to me and to others, That I no longer do that which is evil in Your sight.   May past failings be wiped away in Your great compassion, Eternal One, And may they no longer manifest through pain and suffering.

Let my words, my thoughts, my meditations, and my acts flow from the fullness of Your Being, Eternal One, Source of my being and my Redeemer. AMEN.    

I’ve Got It! I Have Christmas Tree Syndrome!

This Christmas most of my Boomer friends have been more excited about what they did NOT get than what they did. Never mind a bunch of shiny new gadgets or sparkly new sweaters  – they are just glad they did not get COVID!

Thankfully, I did not get COVID either; but I did come down with something else this year: Christmas Tree Syndrome! I didn’t even know that such a thing existed until Richard and I spent a lovely evening with friends Christmas night. Admiring the beautiful balsam tree in their festively decorated home, and taking in the delicious spicy fragrance of balsam, my nose immediately began to snuff up and of course I feared the worst: COVID! But as we drove home from that delightful evening (and it was indeed fun!), my sinuses began to clear and I could breathe easily again. So I immediately grabbed my cell phone and consulted that great source of all wisdom, the great god Google, and guess what I learned?  I learned that I have an allergy to Christmas trees! I just didn’t realise this because, of course, we have had an artificial tree in our home for over 20 years. (Apparently most Boomers buy artificial trees – something else I had not known.) But I will not be smug. Apparently one can get an allergy from artificial Christmas trees too, especially if you store them in a damp basement all year long. Check out this link to learn more and check out this one too. Apparently more than 7% of Canadians suffer from an allergic reaction to coniferous trees.

I am still happy I spent that lovely evening with our friends Christmas night, even if I got the snuffles. And my heart goes out to all those who are suffering from far worse maladies during this holiday season, especially COVID. I pray that they will soon find healing and that you, dear reader, will stay well and safe too. May God bless you during this holy season and grant you hope, peace, health, love and joy in the coming New Year!

SHARING MEMORIES OF SEASONS PAST: THE BEST CHRISTMAS GIFT YOU CAN SHARE WITH YOUR FAMILY

The other day in our Advent Study Group we talked about the New Testament characters Simeon and Anna, two elderly people who greet the infant Jesus and his parents when eight-day-old Jesus is dedicated at the Temple. Simeon has waited his whole life for the coming of Jesus. Now that his eyes have beheld the child, he can depart in peace. Anna, a widow and a prophet, has spent much of her adult life at the temple, worshipping God, welcoming visitors and sharing her deep faith with others. We can imagine that both Anna and Simeon have lived their lives mentoring others by passing on the sacred traditions of their people.

Our society aches from the lack of people like Anna and Simeon who are willing to share the wisdom of their faith traditions with the younger generations. Reflecting on the important role played by Simeon and Anna in educating the young about the spirituality of the ages, one woman in our study group lamented the fact that this year, once again, her family Christmas party with extended family has had to have been cancelled due to the COVID pandemic. These family reunions, as she noted, are one of the places where we get to share our stories about parents and grandparents and the traditions they handed down to us. I know what she means. One of my favourite times was sitting around the dinner table, hearing my grandmother and great-aunt talk about the “olden days”. I learned so much by listening to their stories.

But perhaps there are other ways we can share our stories this Christmas. After all, we can still phone our loved ones. Many of us have also learned how to Skype with relatives and friends who cannot gather with us. Then there is the lost art of “letter writing”. Our children have beautiful letters from their paternal grandparents in Scotland who, while never having caught on to the new technology, have nevertheless left them wonderful handwritten epistles that they will treasure always. That has to be far superior to Instagram and Facebook!

So if you can’t get together, try writing your loved ones a letter this Christmas. Share a special story about a childhood Christmas of which you have fond memories. And have a safe, beautiful Christmas and a healthy, happy New Year!

QUORA ASKS: What are the top 5 things you would want to advise someone who is between 50 and 60 years of age and why?

The other day my daughter sent me an interesting post from Quora which raised an excellent question: What are the top 5 thing you wish you would have done between the ages of 50 and 60 and, given what you now know, what would you advise those in that age bracket today?

A cursory glance at the answers revealed that most people wished they had focussed more on saving more money for retirement, committing to an exercise program and taking better care of their health, wishing they had started their own business or that they had ended their marriage sooner. With the odd exception, there was nothing about nurturing one’s spiritual life or intellect, building healthy relationships or spending more time with family and friends, making time to serve one’s church or synagogue or mosque, caring for Mother Earth, practising greater generosity of time, talent and resources to help one’s community, or reaching out to those who are hurting or in need. Yet, the wisdom of the ages is that these are the very things that contribute to greater happiness and meaning in life.

What do YOU think? What are the top 5 things you would want to advise someone who is between 50 and 60 years of age and why?

I would love to hear from you!

Who are you mentoring? and who mentored you?

The other day I was reading one of Flor McCarthy’s books and I came across this story of an extraordinary lamp lighter by the name of Mr. T. According to McCarthy, “Mr. T was utterly reliable and as punctual as a clock. Each evening, at the onset of darkness, the gas lamps unfailingly came on. How he judged the time nobody knew because he had no watch.

The people often watched from their front windows as he went up and down the street, leaving a trail of light in his wake. It was obvious to all that he loved his job. He lived for one thing  only – to light the lamps. His life was not an easy one but it glowed with meaning.

He was loved by everybody, but especially by the children. When darkness threatened to put an end to their street games. Mr. T. would come along, light the lamps, and they would continue to play.

What was it that made Mr. T. so extraordinary? After all, there are many people who love their work and who do it faithfully. Mr. T’s greatness lay in the fact that he was blind. The man who was so faithful in bringing the light to others never saw it himself.

Eventually electricity arrived, and Mr. T, now advanced in years, was made redundant. His life suddenly lost meaning. He felt useless and unwanted. Sadly, the people who once loved him, now forgot about him. The new light was so superior to the old one that no one regretted its passing. He spent his days and nights alone in the darkness of his basement apartment.”

Those of us who find ourselves in the third quarter of life may feel a bit like Mr. T. With the growth of modern technology, it may be that the way we trained for our various jobs or professions has completely changed, often for the better, but our own inability to keep up with the new developments has meant that our skills our woefully outdated. Or worse: perhaps the career we trained for no longer exists.

We can respond to this situation by complaining bitterly that the life and career we knew are now obsolete. Or we can take the time to learn new methods and skills. I know a few people in the third quarter of life who have successfully re-invented themselves and found new meaning and purpose. Or we can make way for someone new to take over by sharing the very real wisdom we do have and then passing the torch on. The latter requires a certain humility and generosity of spirit. It may mean doing some serious coaching of those who are coming up behind us. It may also mean being willing to give up control over how things proceed in the future.

This is what others have done for us too. Perhaps this is a good time to consider not only how we mentor those who follow us, but also how we begin to say thank you to those in the past who prepared the way for us.

Are You Still Re-Digging the Wells Your Parents Dug?

Genesis 26:18

18 And Isaac dug again the wells of water which they had dug in the days of Abraham his father, for the Philistines had stopped them up after the death of Abraham. He called them by the names which his father had called them.”

One of the important themes raised by Rabbi Richard Address at last weekend’s Long and Winding Road event centred around Genesis 26:18, which recounts how Isaac re-dug the wells his father Abraham had built and which had now been stopped up by the Philistines following the death of Abraham. The text raises a powerful question which we in the Boomer generation do well to examine. Are we re-digging the wells that our parents dug?

What is Isaac trying to do?

Is he trying to establish his own identity by digging new wells where the old ones had been?

Or is he still trying to win his father’s approval? Remember that Isaac’s relationship with his father Abraham was a complicated one. You will recall that Abraham, in a blind and misguided attempt to demonstrate his faith in God, actually came close to sacrificing his son Isaac. Imagine the post-traumatic stress Isaac would have carried with him all his life as a result of his father’s gross misunderstanding of what God required of him.

While there are too many in our society that continue to suffer abuse, emotionally or physically, at the hands of troubled parents, it is also true that those of us who were blessed by reasonably good and loving parents also wrestle with questions not unlike those identified by Rabbi Address. The parent-child relationship never goes away. Think of Esau and Jacob and how Jacob deceived his father Isaac into giving him the blessing that by birth should have gone to Esau. Granted, he had assistance from his conniving and manipulative mother Rebekah, but the theft may also be seen as a desperate attempt on Jacob’s part to win his father’s approval.

I always remember reading where the famous and highly decorated British general Field Marshall Bernhard Montgomery cried on his deathbed, “Why did my mother never love me?”

It would seem that our family of origin has tremendous power over our lives, even long after we have left the nest. Address says we never really escape it.

So take some to ponder these questions. Are you still re-digging the wells that your parents dug? Or are you building new wells of opportunity, grace and love and fashioning your own identity?

I will be away on study leave the week of November 29th to December 6th inclusive, but I would love to hear your answers when I get back. Please Note: There will be no blog next week. I will see you again the week of December 6th!

Why Am I Here?

My mind is still reeling after the wonderfully inspirational messages shared  this weekend at Siloam by Rabbi Richard Address of Jewish Sacred Aging. Rabbi Address began “Our Long and Winding Road” event with an invitation to a spiritual journey, encouraging us to embark on a path that will lead to a “mature spirituality.”

Drawing on his deep knowledge of the scriptures, the rich traditions of Judaism, and authoritative writers like Viktor Frankl, Ernst Becker, Irvin D. Yalom and others,  Address discussed the most profound text in the whole Bible: Genesis 3, what one of his seminary professors called the “finite factuality” and “the most important aspect of the founding or birth of religion.”  It is this chapter that introduces our mortality.

Genesis 3, Address notes, raises the three “Why” questions of our existence:

  1. Why was I born?
  2. Why must I die?
  3. Why am I here?

These are not easy questions, but they are ones which each one of us must wrestle with if we are to arrive at a mature spirituality. We can never fully answer the first and second questions, but it is what we do between birth and death that really counts.

Address’ words remind me of the wonderful poem by Linda Ellis, which I quote here:

The Dash

the poem by Linda Ellis

I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of a friend. He referred to the dates on the tombstone from the beginning… to the end.

He noted that first came the date of birth and spoke of the following date with tears, but he said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time they spent alive on earth and now only those who loved them know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own, the cars… the house… the cash. What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash.

So think about this long and hard; are there things you’d like to change? For you never know how much time is left that still can be rearranged.

To be less quick to anger and show appreciation more and love the people in our lives like we’ve never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect and more often wear a smile… remembering that this special dash might only last a little while.

So when your eulogy is being read, with your life’s actions to rehash, would you be proud of the things they say about how you lived your dash?

© 1996-2020 Southwestern Inspire Kindness, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 

By Linda Ellis, Copyright © 2020 Inspire Kindness, thedashpoem.com

Great news! At Age 60 You reach the top of your potential and this continues into your eighties!

Recently a friend and colleague sent me the following information, published in the New England Journal of Medicine. It gives hope to all of us in the second half of life:

An extensive study in the U.S.A found that the most productive age in human life is between 60-70 years of age. The 2nd. most productive stage of the human being is from 70 to 80 years of age. The 3rd. most productive stage is from 50 to 60 years of age. The average age of NOBEL PRIZE winners is 62 years old. The average age of the presidents of prominent companies in the world is 63 years. The average age of the pastors of the 100 largest churches in the U.S.A. is 71. The average age of the Popes is 76 years. This tells us in a way that it has been determined, that the best years of your life are between 60 and 80 years. A study published in NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE found that at age 60, you reach the TOP of your potential and this continues into your 80s. Therefore, if you are between 60 -70 or 70-80 you are in the BEST and 2nd. level of your life.

SOURCE: N.Engl.J .Med. 70,389 (2018) ..