Anyone who reads my blog regularly is well acquainted with the fact that my mother was a very interesting woman. She became a widow at the age of thirty and raised three little ones to adulthood by herself. Just after I left home she began to show the signs of mental illness that eventually would be diagnosed as bipolar disorder. With loving support from family, neighbors and her bosses she managed to work until she was able to retire with a small pension and a monthly Social Security check. Through it all she maintained an optimistic and generous spirit along with an uncanny wisdom that she shared with an eye toward the future.
Mama believe in the scriptural admonition that there is a time for every season, and by that she meant that each of us must know when it is the moment to play our different roles in life. She had nurtured us when we were children, but encouraged us to fly away from her protective nest when we became adults. She was a working mom by necessity, but she surrendered her job in her sixties with the comment that it was time for younger folk to have the privilege of her position. She at times fretted that older people too often cling to the reigns of power longer than they should, sometimes making it difficult for the next generation to have their turn at running things.
When people in their seventies boasted that they were still heading companies and working forty hours a week, my mother would sniff and ask why they were not willing to train younger folks to try a hand at their jobs. She believed that it was never a good idea to overlook the up and coming generation or to scorn them by an unwillingness to trust them. She felt the same about politicians, believing that there should be limits to the amount of time that people hold powerful positions, even it they were lifetime appointments.
Mama was highly respectful of young people. She believed that in living longer we humans had a tendency to focus on the wisdom of the old while ignoring the beliefs of the young. She felt that we had become lopsided in the running of families, businesses and governments by allowing decades long control by a particular individual or group that might instead have stepped aside to give the next generation a chance to find their own way and to demonstrate their talents.
My mother also believed in sharing wealth before death. She was not one to hoard what few treasures she had. When she died she had little of great value because she had already given away much of what she had managed to accumulate during her life. She preferred the idea of providing young people a financial boost to leaving them fortunes when they had grown old. She often noted that she did not worry about becoming a King Lear whose family abandoned him once he had transferred his power to them. She believed that a well run society depended on helping each successive generation and demonstrating faith in their capabilities.
I often wonder what my mother would think of so many Baby Boomers hoarding their power and their money. She’d wonder why the leading candidates for the presidency in our country are old men who should stay home and leave the running of the country to the generation of their children and grandchildren. She would also be asking why so many speak of our youngest adults with so much derision. Instead she would no doubt insist that it is the natural progression of things to embrace the vibrant ideas of youthfulness. She would remind me that even Jesus carried out his mission on this earth before he was thirty three years old.
My mother gave me and my brothers infinite levels of confidence in ourselves because she encouraged and respected our thinking even when it diverged from hers. She often laughed at the impact our philosophies had in changing her mind about things. She grew as we did and she saw that as a very good thing. She rarely chided us unless she saw us growing insular and selfish.
My mother helped me to find my footing when I was a fledgling teacher. Her words of wisdom were simple. She told me to embrace each of my students just as they were and to always demonstrate to them that I valued their differences. Once I stopped judging and ranking the children who came to me, but instead understood that they could and would learn at different paces and in different ways, I became the teacher that they needed.
I doubt that I would be the person I am today without my mother’s wisdom. Her voice still resonates inside of me. I see the future generations as our hope, not our downfall. I realize that it is now my time to support and encourage the generation that will take humankind into the future. My mother taught me how to look forward rather than holding on to the past. Her influence has served me well.