Have Faith: There is a season

Learning from our elders.

From the time I was very little, I can remember wanting to be around adults, anyone older than myself. My cousins would go off to play on the swing set or for a game of hide-and-seek, and I’d find a way to hang around my aunts and uncles so that I could listen to their conversation. Mostly, I wanted to find out why they laughed so much. What was so great about sitting around together anyway, just talking and laughing? Of course later I put two and two together and realized that some of that seemed to coincide with the tall brown bottle of Seagram’s we kept in the kitchen cabinet next to the sink.

We had a neighbor, Mrs. Schott, when I was growing up in North St. Louis, who was very kind to me. I remember that she was in a wheelchair, and I just loved going to her house. It was comfortable and calm, and she had hard candy of every color in a dish on her end table. Maybe the hard candy led to my fascination with older people, who knows?

As I’ve gotten older myself, that fascination has turned into respect and admiration. I’ve always enjoyed talking to women older than myself by a decade or two. They are in a different place than I am in some ways; I perceive them as much more calm and together, and their qualities are those I want to strive for — more peace and less drama. I figure I need to learn how to “be” more like them.

There’s a group at the Unitarian Universalist Church called Age-ing to Sage-ing, or is it Aging to Saging? I’m not sure which, but I am sure that it’s something I want to learn more about. I called Ann Hollister on Sunday afternoon to ask her about the program. The group doesn’t meet in the summer months, so they haven’t had a chance to get together much since the great coronavirus cloud entered our lives in late spring. Whether members of the group will fully adjust to adding one more Zoom meeting to their calendar appears to be unknown. At this point, who isn’t getting wary of all things on video? But what I wanted to know is what happens at these monthly gatherings? What do they talk about?

Ann explained that she was one of the founding members of the group, which was brought to the Vineyard by Georgia Franklin, a longtime summer resident who retired here full-time after living in New Jersey. Georgia was part of an Age-ing to Sage-ing group there, and wondered if the UU Church here would be interested in such a group, so she brought the idea to a few of her friends at church. They were, and eight years ago they began to get together.

Much of what goes into the group’s discussion centers around a foundation based on the books “From Age-ing to Sage-ing: A Revolutionary Approach to Growing Older” by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, and “Elderescence” by Jane and Peggy Thayer, UUSMV members now deceased. They have lively discussions about all kinds of topics from end-of-life to dementia to ageism to acceptance and denial and peace, liberation, happiness, and joy. Everyone has the opportunity to chime in if they’re comfortable. And the group has always been open to everyone as well.

“A typical gathering starts with chalice lighting and a little meditation,” Ann said. The group decides what the focus for that gathering will be before they meet. “We’ll have discussion about that focus, come having read a book or with a poem, we’ll read what we’ve brought or discuss what we read and how it affects us. We divide our time by the number of people we have, and leave time to set the next agenda. Each person adds to each discussion, to share their perspectives together about what we’ve read.”

I know one of the members, and her ability to stay active and engaged into her 90s is a real inspiration to me. I often tease her because she gets out of the house much more than I do, or at least she did before the pandemic. She’s still very engaged in the community, and is more comfortable on Zoom than I am. The older I get, the more I see that staying involved with friends, family, community groups, and with my spirituality all leads to a more full and well-rounded life.

Remember the words of wisdom from Chapter 3 in Ecclesiastes: “There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens.” When I get ramped up, and I do that a lot, I try to stop myself, slow down, think about those words, and remember that things are honestly never as terrible as I feel they are in that moment. I just need to tweak my perception and get myself away from the edge of the cliff.

My daughter turned 30 last week, and I promised her as she gets older, she’ll find satisfaction and a whole new outlook. “I hope so,” she said. She will.

If you’re interested in finding out more about Age-ing to Sage-ing, contact Ann Hollister at holliann@verizon.net.