Elders In Towns

I contribute to Berwick Advertiser's Thought for the Week column. Here is my latest article: <p>

I received a card from a very old friend which said  ‘I suffer from the Methuselah tendency’.  I decided to  investigate this tendency. I learned from the Book of Genesis that Methuselah had a family of long-livers who became elders among their tribe.  His father, Enoch, was the great grand- father of Noah and lived 365 years. These elders guided the people before the Great Flood. This intrigued me so I found out more about more recent elders. 


I discovered that ‘The Elders’ is a non-governmental organisation of elder statesmen brought together by Nelson Mandela in 2007. It included former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, former US President Jimmy Carter, and former Cape-town Archbishop Desmond Tutu.  They list these functions of the elders: Peace-makers, social transformers, door-openers. They suggest that elders listen to everyone, bring people together, create space, and connect decision-makers. 


I have met elders during  my  journeys to First Nation peoples in Australia and USA, and I have learned how their tribes value them. They do not promote themselves and they are neither appointed nor  elected. They are recognized as elders because of their innate qualities that become more available as they age. Elders listen. They carry the memory of the tribe’s story, and the meaning of its ceremonies. Politically they may be marginal but they are present at tribal gatherings. They watch over their people, and wait for individuals to seek them out. They are custodians of the tribe’s wisdom and philosophy. People bring their problems and disagreements to them. They may suggest how tribal values can be applied in restorative justice and conflict resolution. In one tribe a group called Grey Eagles went to schools to share wisdom through story telling. 


Can Berwick elders grow and flourish more? Sometimes a street has an ‘auntie figure’. In some lands the parish priest  is a father to everyone in the parish. It can be like that among us. People  say ‘If you want a friend, be a friend’. I say  ‘If we want  elders,  cultivate the qualities of an elder’. Elders watch, wonder as they wander, welcome by making space and draw from well-springs of wisdom.






Posted at 09:02am on 20th July 2018
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