Apprenticing to be an Elder: a Cross-Generational, Cross-Cultural Gratitude Post

Over the last six years, I have been honored to mentor young people from across the globe, both in-person and on-line.

In turn, they have mentored me. Here are some examples:

  • The young man who rehearsed his talk about culturally appropriate pedagogy (from the standpoint of a Native child in White American public school). His talk made me remember the struggles I had with learning everything from tying my shoes to long division to martial arts moves. Everything we learn creates a shift in our holistic sense of the universe.
  • The young woman who introduced me to Kalia Kao Vang’s brilliant memoir  The Latehomecomer. The whole story is stunning (nonfiction and poetry are twins) but the opening chapter is an example to fiction and nonfiction writers alike about the marriage of spirituality, metaphysics, and history both familial and national.
  • The young people who brought me to the Winter Storytelling by the Ojibwe and Dakota language classes at the University of Minnesota, in spite of my shyness about buses/winter/not belonging there.
  • My protege who invited me to the fall Community Dance and set me up with a plate of food as if I were his grandma.
  • The young people with whom I conversed about science and philosophy in the Islamic world. (See the nonfiction history The House of Wisdom, in which we learn that grammar is a sacred undertaking, and translation one of the most glorious of the arts.)
  • The young woman who brainstormed her paper about Botox and racialized/gendered standards of beauty. I realized that I didn’t have an age 50 midlife crisis because I was surrounded by young people from cultures that revere their elders. Instead of worrying about my fading (White Hollywood defined) looks, I was taking lessons from the young in how to live up to the status of Elder.
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2 Responses to Apprenticing to be an Elder: a Cross-Generational, Cross-Cultural Gratitude Post

  1. Very much enjoyed this post, little glimpses into other lives and cultures.

  2. This really helps me in thinking about entering my 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond; looking at it from your perspective, I see the deep value of my experiences and relationships with the younger generations, not only my own biological children. Something to commit to….

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