“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” This phrase has been proclaimed in recent years by Barack Obama and before him Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and prior to him coined by Theodore Parker, a Unitarian Minister and abolitionist born in 1810. The recent events in Charlottesville have reminded me of this sentiment and I continue to return to it as a touchstone. As a hope that we are better than fear, hate and discrimination. To remind myself that the past will not dictate our future.
Perhaps you too have borne a heavy burden in the past days, weeks, or year. Perhaps you are disturbed or despaired by the period of unrest we currently find ourselves in. As an organization that strives to create safety for all, and raise awareness of those marginalized within our healthcare institutions, at this time we look back. It’s important to remember that these news headlines are not new. We recognize that many of the people who have fought for justice time and time again live among us within our elders.
Recently a client shared how disappointed his veteran father would be today if he was still alive: that after fighting for a more equitable world his whole life, seeing hate get a pass by the president would have harmed him irreparably. I had the pleasure of working with his father in the last year of his life and I knew the man to be a fighter. I believe he would have been disappointed, maybe even devastated; but he wouldn’t stop there. I believe his father would have cried, raged and then called his representatives.
My own family is a lesson in history. My grandfather and grandmother were both raised in the south, descended from slaves and people who worked the land of Oklahoma. My father and his siblings came of age during the Civil Rights movement and those hard, ugly pains lingered in many of the lessons he taught me about what to expect from the world. I learned how to behave, stay safe in the world, and succeed in spite of how people would treat me as a woman of color. When my parents fell in love and got married in 1977, interracial marriage had only been legal for 10 years. I’ve witnessed first hand the name-calling and harassment they have endured simply because they fell in love.
Throughout the painful periods of our collective experience as Americans, my family was able to lean deeply into justice. I am incredibly proud to say they have created a legacy of giving back and serving their wider communities. I am endlessly grateful for that direction. As educators, social workers, ministers and leaders at local and global levels, they remind me that hate is a hill, not a stop sign. I thank them and many other older adults who have provided encouragement, shared their stories, and invested in my generation.
This month, I encourage you to connect with an older adult. Maybe you’ll discuss history, maybe you won’t. For certain you will be privy to a different view and will give the gift of time and attention to people who are often overlooked. If the older adults in your life have transitioned, take time to reflect on their journey. What did they experience and endure that can inform your path? How can we, from such diverse backgrounds, bend the arc together?
If you aren’t sure how to connect or are missing loved ones who have passed on, please join us for the LGBTQ Intergenerational Dinner on September 15. More details available here. Building relationships across generations is one way to bring care into your life or that of another person.
A special thank you to our many clients who have shared their stories, knowledge, and passion with us over the years.