What is Elderhood?
by Rev. Qiyamah A. Rahman
A village without elders is like a tree without roots. – old proverb
In the Black community elders are revered for having accomplished seniority and survived life’s adversities in the face of societal oppression. They are treated as persons of worth. Elders are honored as repositories of wisdom and resourceful contributors to the community as well as recipients of care. The Black community operates from a sense of “peoplehood” and an appreciation of shared history, shared culture, and shared challenges. Elders are valued as important bearers of the history and culture, and as meaningful participants in the community, and as the go-to for care and the receivers of care. A healthy community cultivates cross-generational relations as the context for this to happen, reclaiming a communal ethic wherein all generations are seen as connected parts of a kinship circle. Elders carry and retain informative stories, and concrete examples of overcoming adversity and concrete suggestions, and questions for reflection, and how to “keep on keeping on” through the good times and the challenging times.
Elders are the wisdom keepers and the culture bearers. Their wisdom enables them to illuminate the path and approach opportunities and threats. They can offer insights in ways to think about and look at life for the possibilities of exploring alternatives. Many elders have contemplated their own mortality and therefore can rationally help others come to grips with the fact that we are always moving toward death with each breath as each day passes.
Given the immense importance and presence of elders they ultimately have the power and ability to regulate relationships in a community. However, this can only occur when elders are bestowed recognition, respect and power.
How might we, as Black Unitarian Universalist women and girls, sanction and promote the beauty and respect of our elders in our congregations and in the larger UU community?
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