I have invited people to “share your story” of a favorite elder on my blog. The question has then arisen. Who’s an elder?
The women in The Beauty of Aging Documentary Project were all over the age of 80. I considered them elders – not just because of their ages but also because of the wisdom, attitudes and wealth of life experiences they shared. Each in their own way had a gift to impart to others. Giving back and a social conscience were attributes of many of them.
Shirley Windward not only co-founded the Windward School, she was committed to helping young people find their voice through writing and believed and supported them along their journey. At an event at her school for her 90th birthday, many people gave testimonials of the incredible help and inspiration they received from Shirley.
Lavada Campbell loved being with young people and had a youthful spirit. She also liked giving advice and saw her role as being a helper to those in need. During our first interview with her for our film project, she frequently told my partner, Lisa Thompson Morrison, how she should proceed with her then boyfriend (now husband). Lavada considered herself to be an elder with wisdom to share.
Most everyone would consider Hedda Bolgar to be an elder – not only because she lived to be 103, but because of her incredible wisdom and generosity of spirit that she shared with so many people. Hedda once told me a story about a former client who called to talk to her many nights of the week despite no longer being a client. Hedda did not feel imposed upon but rather was glad to be able to give the gift of help.
In the life cycle, we often learn from people older than ourselves. At some point, we become the elder to younger people and hopefully impart and share our wisdom. I have found as well that I learn a lot from younger people. For instance my wise and gracious daughter, Jessica, is a teacher to me in many ways. I am so grateful for what I learn from her.
Do you consider yourself an elder? Who are the elders in your life?