by Sr. Mary Thill, OSF
When I think about elderhood, as I do in May because it’s Older Americans month in the USA, I often think about the legacy of the elders. Now, that I am among those elders, I often think about what my legacy is now and is yet to be depending on the length of my life. I like to think that we will all give some thought to our own legacies especially after the global experience of COVID-19 and the terrible thing it did to our elders and the elders of the world.
Pope Francis, being himself an elder, seems to identify with his elderhood as he writes and speaks of “us” and “we” in his more recent documents. I was impressed with this statement in, Let us Dream, when he wrote, “Our greatest power is not in the respect that others have for us, but the service we can offer others.” It is his hope that the old and the young will come out of this pandemic with the desire, the dream, to work together and create a new world that will have a culture of kindness and care for others, especially those on the margins—the poor, the elders, those effected by climate change, those seeking refuge from oppressive governments, etc. I do hope we respect our elders and I also believe that we cannot demand this respect. It will flow from others who interact with us as we work together to solve the many challenges we face in these unusual times. When the young can take time to be with and listen to the elders, great things can happen as the wisdom and experience and above all the love flowing from these encounters can lead to helping one another to create a new world where all are welcome and willing to work together for the common good.
It concerns me that the elders who survived the pandemic of 2020+ will feel that they do not have much of a legacy to share with their families and other generations. I like to think that an important part of their legacy is that they did survive the pandemic and reflecting on that fact, they can show us what they have learned from this trauma. What a great time to share what their lives meant through it all. Indeed, another “Greatest Generation” is among us. I hope they/we don’t remain silent but willingly share our wisdom and experiences from our long lives. Perhaps this sharing is your legacy.