BY LYNNE ISER
My life changed at an unexpected moment eight years ago. My youngest daughter was 16, lingering in the kitchen as I sautéed onions and mushrooms for dinner. She was reading the newspaper and suddenly turned to me in tears and said, “I wish I grew up in the 1960s.”
Her sorrow shocked me because she’s had so many more opportunities than I had at her age. Yet as she read the newspaper, the fragility of our planet and of our humanity weighed heavily on her heart. And it broke my heart to see my child living in fear, traumatized by news of violence, economic disparity, and the many global crises that dominate our lives.
At that moment, I didn’t know what to do or where to begin – but fortunately I did have many years of life experience to draw upon.
In my previous work, as the founding director of the Spiritual Eldering Institute, I had worked with Reb Zalman to develop the exercises and foundations of that work. I had been immersed in the psycho-spiritual theories of becoming an elder – and now I realized that I needed to focus on the responsibilities of being an elder.
I was drawn to the last line of the Definition of an Elder – “an elder is a person who deserves respect and honor and whose work it to synthesize wisdom from long life experience and formulate this into a legacy for future generations.”
It seemed to me that if I wanted to leave her, and all our children, a world that is sustainable and just I needed to become engaged as an activist.
As I spoke with friends, went to workshops, and read widely, I began what has become the most exciting phase of my life. Inspired by my daughter, I now work to assure that her future holds promise, and that the perils of global warming and social injustice don’t rob her of hope.
Early on in my exploration I discovered the work of Joanna Macy – and used her paradigm to understand what is happening in our world. I now use her teachings in synergy with the Sage-ing® work and inspire others to connect with their love of this world, their fears and despair, and to use these feelings to fuel their sacred activism.
In my new career as an “elder activist” I recognize that now only do we need to reclaim our role as elders but we must reclaim our “voice” as Elders – whether that is at our dining room table, out in front of City Hall, at a community meeting, in a letter to the editor – or a letter to our children. And to speak what is true for the welfare of all.
As I have studied issues, marched and lobbied, I have been surrounded by other elders who share my concerns. We feel a sense of unity and strength as we work together to leave our legacy for our children and grandchildren. I believe the Boomer generation could truly make a difference if we reconnected with the values that animated our activism in the 1960s and revived our long-ago ambitions to improve civil rights, safeguard the environment, and work for peace.
Imagine if a return to activism inspired even a fraction of the 10,000 Baby Boomers who will turn 65 today, and each and every day for the next 19 years? What a better world that would be!
We could be the ones to push our world toward a tipping point.
This is what I hope will be my legacy – to be part of a generation that reclaims our voices as elders, standing tall in the public square, speaking truth to power and working together to leave a more peaceful, democratic and beautiful world to our descendants.
Today, my daughter tells me how proud she is of me and says my activism gives her hope for her future. Because I want her to experience so much more than just hope, I urge you to join me in pursuing this vision, so she and future generations can experience the security of a thriving and more just world.
Lynne Iser, was the Founding Executive Director of the Spiritual Eldering Institute. She created Elder Activists (see www.elder-activists.org) to inspire, educate, and organize elders to work toward a thriving and more just world. She is a faculty member of the Sage-ing Legacy Program, member of the Leadership Council of the Conscious Elders Network, member of Sage-ing International’s Service Committee, and teaches workshops on “Becoming Vibrant Elders.”