Tag Archives: Desmond Tutu

#2 Promises to Tomorrow: Listening to the young

When Archbishop Tutu wanted to accelerate the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, there was a point, when he decided to spend his time only talking and listening to young people, people under 30. He felt that they were the ones who would be inheriting a post apartheid South Africa and so needed to understand what they could do together to create that future. This week in Chicago President Obama gave clear confidence and instruction to young people:

This generation coming up – unselfish, altruistic, creative, patriotic – I’ve seen you in every corner of the country. You believe in a fair, just, inclusive America; you know that constant change has been America’s hallmark, something not to fear but to embrace, and you are willing to carry this hard work of democracy forward. You’ll soon outnumber any of us, and I believe as a result that the future is in good hands.

It is imperative we listen to children and young people, to understand why they are making the choices they are making. In volunteering they are putting their energy into environmental pursuits, leaving the services like Meals on Wheels to the retired; in the way they spend their time, they are giving some to themselves and more to being together with peers than any other generation sharing and connecting in such constant ways through social media and in real time; with their finances they are building new collaborative economies where access is more important than ownership. As the first generation of digital natives they are wired differently and have different priorities. Debt and cost of living, means they are more likely to save for an experience than a house. They are better informed about health and well-being and are spending more time and money investing in their bodies than previous generations. These trends exist world-wide and although there are definitely inequities and gaps in countries and between countries – these are still the general trends of a generation. Those born in the 1990s are coming of age now and leaving their youth and as they start to enter their 30s will be having their own children.

Children being born today are asking questions that were hidden in previous generations. An 11 year old I know who is the grandson of a dear friend of mine asked his mother a question this week:

If a person doesn’t identify as either male or female, when they or their partner has a baby, how do they decide if they are a mother or a father – can anyone have an opinion for example could one child call them mum but the other child call them dad, based on how they view that parent?

This is a question that might not have been asked in any generation before his.

My promise to the future is I will be curious and look for ways to listen in to younger people and children. I will pay attention to what they are saying on line, their art, the books they are reading, movies they are watching, games they are playing, questions they are asking. This means I need to be in places where I can hear, see and be exposed to their voices and find ways to bring them to my attention.

The young voice, the young mind, inspires and encourages. And for those who are in despair, grieving, abused or confused, we need to hear that too and animate, embolden and support them to take the steps they need to take to turn that around; or get out of the way so they can do it themselves, or move a barrier on their behalf. When you don’t have children in your life, you are not exposed to their wonder and awe at the world, and seeing the world through a child’s eyes does let you see the twinkle in the star.

Building optimism is essential to building a resilient generation, with depression in epidemic proportions amongst teens and young adults, I wonder if there is a correlation between that phenomena and not being heard? Paying attention to the early warning signs, that may not be voiced; asking simple questions like are you OK?; offering up a support when you detect one might be needed even if it is rejected is a sign you are sending that you are listening, noticing.

As a person in the older generation I promise to be a builder of hope. I will hold an expectation of potential and have a desire to listen to their questions with confidence those questions are planting seeds of tomorrow.

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Yes we can – Clare and Archie Jan 2017

Sanctuary of the Labyrinth

I’ve walked the labyrinth: in San Francisco in Grace Cathedral, in Toronto next to Trinity church that supports the city homeless, behind St George‘s Anglican Cathedral in Cape Town, in Alice Springs at Campfire in the Heart and in McLaren Vale along the shiraz walking trail of the old railway line.

Each time I’ve walked the labyrinth I have been visited by new thoughts, I’ve been comforted and had some revelation. The very act of walking in and out, tracing and retracing my own steps, strengthens my narrative.

I’ve walked the labyrinth many ways: on my own, with the love of my life and with a group. I’ve walked with a specific intention, meditation or song. I’ve found that the deeper the intention for the walk, the deeper the experience.

I recently learnt of a virus of the inner ear that causes an illness called labyrinthitis – it is not very pleasant causing dizziness and disorientation. I have been reflecting on this affliction and noticing when it flares up. It seems to take hold when there is a need for re-calibration and balance. The condition making sure that its host knows that recalibration and rebalance is required! Walking the labyrinth is similar in a way. Perhaps if you need to recalibrate and find your balance this walking meditation you might be saved from physical symptoms.

Hildegard I know you spent a lot of time in your life not well and I wonder if this ever had to do with your needing to re-charge, straighten up after being dizzy or unsettled by one phenomena or another?

The labyrinth is not a maze, it is one single path that leads to the centre and the same one leading you out. Going in deep and faithfully taking one step at a time is surely the only way into the centre, and once there to find your way out requires a good deal of fidelity and courage. Being true to your path is the universal quest. The ritual walking of the labyrinth reflects the common path of human experience. We all enter the path, and we all exit the path.

And in the places I have walked a physical labyrinth I add my steps to those who have gone before and have left my footprints for those who follow.

Grace Cathedral nurtured the first wave of AIDS in San Francisco and held so many of the gay community to its bosom. The quilts, the prayers, the poems and the sanctuary it was and continues to be is an ongoing testament to the fidelity of San Francisco to its gay community.

Toronto’s Trinity Church has a strong and fine history of being a place for the homeless to feel safe, find a meal and receive friendship, a sanctuary, especially in the winter time.

Cape Town Cathedral hosted so many moments of civil disobedience, solidarity and prophetic witness by black and white throughout the apartheid years. It welcomed everyone and in doing so putting all of the congregation at risk – it was a sanctuary on more than one occasion for those fleeing arrest, bullets and persecution. It grew its own prophets led by Desmond Tutu.

Campfire in the Heart is a sanctuary on the edge of a township riddled with racism and flooded with ancient stories holding the fragile land and communities together. It stands as witness, and is invitation to all, with warmth, wise counsel and deep compassion in the pores of those who are there and in each grain of the red sand on which it lies.

The old train track at McLaren Vale is surrounded by houses on one side and vineyards on the other, nestled in the valley behind the main part of the township the labyrinth is a quiet, still place where the wattle birds, magpies, honeyeaters, galahs and parrots sing to all those who walk the path there. The old red gums hold the stories of the land and provide the sanctuary to support the pilgrim.

I keep going, on my labyrinth way, and as I head into the half way mark, between fifty and sixty, I accept that I have now turned from the centre and am  heading out. Gathering up the lessons I have learnt on the way in, savouring the moments, reflecting on where I have trod, noticing with new eyes what I didn’t see on the way in and gratefully stepping forward.

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