The elders

An old friend and long-time member of our circle here in New England has been collecting a number of elder women in her area and brought them together to make a grandmother circle.  We need the grandmother wisdom, of course, and we need to bring the consciousness of western society to attend to them, and to the elders in general.  Wherever I go I see that is a lost value, when it used to be one of the most important stays of society.  I see elders being ignored, uncared for, and not thought about.  I see them standing in lines, and not at the front of the lines.  An elder would never have to stand in our old cultures.  I see them now being sent away from their homes, put in homes for the elderly and rarely visited.  In the old days they would be given a comfortable seat and brought whatever they need.

Neighborhoods of today are impoverished, losing their elders, their wisdom and their stories.  A people without their elders are not a people. The elders carry stories of their times, the people’s history, and stories are the glue that hold a people together, make them know who they are, see where they have been, ponder where they are going.  Without the stories of the elders we have no history, we are not a people, just a mass of struggling, stressed out individuals.  You have a story – it tells you who you are, what you are learning, what you need to learn.  A community of people must have a story to know who they are, to take pride in their history and humbly see what they must learn.  The sense of a community, the pride of a village or a tribe has largely been lost, and the people are not even aware of their loss.

Wherever I went as a young man traveling about Turtle Island, seeking the elders in every nation, I was always welcomed – and called ‘grandfather’ right away by those I had never met. I was unknown to them, but I was an elder to be cared for and listened to with interest and gratitude.  “Sit here, Grandfather,” they would say. “ Here’s a blanket for your shoulders, Grandfather, here’s a coffee.  Tell us about your people, can you tell us a story from them?”  And that began when I was only 38 years old!

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