Listening to Our Grandmothers

shsgreateromaha 29 Jun 2018

This is the third in our monthly series from guest blogger Nancy Hemesath.  Nancy challenges negative stereotypes of aging, believing that post-career years are meant to be both fulfilling and meaningful.  In this installment she discusses the wisdom of elders.

“When Grandmothers speak, the world heals.” (Hopi Proverb)   What is it about Grandmother’s voice that heals those who hear her message?  This mysterious saying drew my attention because it points to the value of our elders, something that is often overlooked in our society.

I believe the word that captures the most significant contribution of our elders is that of “wisdom.”  Accumulated knowledge, experience and reflection is the fertile soil for wisdom.  Those who have lived seven or eight decades have learned about the meaning of life through the years.  The very fact that elders have survived heartaches, losses, and disappointments suggests that they have “learned a thing or two because they have seen a thing or two.”  They have discovered, if they have been reflective, what is important versus what is trivial.  This is what they have to share with younger generations.

When I speak to groups of elders, I often ask them if, over the years, they have become more or less judgmental.  Inevitably, they say they are less judgmental than when they were young.   No doubt they have had loved ones who lived imperfect lives and remain beloved to them.  They have had grandchildren with purple hair whom they love unconditionally.  Tattoos are not such a big deal anymore because “the kids are good kids.”

These attitudes are earmarks of a wise person.  The voice of wisdom is compassionate toward both ourselves and others.  It is spacious; when practiced, our heart relaxes.  When we are listening to the voice of wisdom, we have a gentle good humor about ourselves or the situation.  There is a generosity of spirit, a kind open-hearted view of people and situations.  And finally there is a sense that all is well in the big picture.  This is, of course, the opposite of being uptight, defensive, humorless and fearful of impending doom.  These ideas are adapted from Maria Nemeth’s excellent book, “Mastering Life’s Energies.”

Wise elders take the long view.    They have been through wars, social upheavals, storms of all kinds, economic downturns, and other catastrophes. They know that life is cyclical and the challenges of today, when met with courage, will yield a better day.  Because they have weathered these difficulties, they have also known peace, abundance and progress.  This perspective allows wise elders to be thankful for all of life’s experiences.

It is so beneficial for young people and elders to connect, to share ideas and learn from one another.  (A wise elder is never finished learning.)  Our world is in need of the wisdom that leads to healing.  It is when the wisdom and knowledge is shared among the generations that healing occurs.  “When Grandmothers speak, the world heals.




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