Contributed by Dorothy Yuan
On November 17, 2017 about 20 resident-members of this focus group met to discuss the topic: “How Governments Should Deal with Inequality”.
The topic was suggested by the Group Chair, Carl Brown. In preparation for the discussion the group was asked to read two articles from Foreign Affairs: “What Kills Inequality” by Timur Kuran, and “How Should Governments Address Inequality?”, by Melissa S. Kearney.
George Newman started the discussion with the provocative quotation from Orwell: “All animals are equal but some are more equal than others”, a viewpoint that sets the tone for the generally pessimistic view of the group regarding whether government can successfully address inequality.
The outstanding factor, of the many cited by the group, was actually addressed in the book “What’s the Matter with Kansas” by Thomas Frank. His book was published in 2006, but remains current in explaining why many Americans consistently vote against government programs that would benefit them. It seems that the desire to continue to support their particular affinity group cannot be overcome by events that are clearly against their moral conscience.
On the optimistic side the group suggested that for humanity as a whole, increased globalization may serve to reduce the divide as evidenced by the increase in the percentage of the middle class in China and India.
A note of thanks was given to Lorrie Rogers for providing easier access to reading materials for these sessions.
On Sunday morning I did something rather unusual. I joined 2 other Collingtonians and went to the Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church in Bethesda. I was motivated by the opportunity to participate in a spiritual experience that was offered by the Tibetan Buddhist Monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery. The Monastery was reestablished in South India by escapee monks after the Chinese invaded Tibet and killed or imprisoned others.
The monks, endorsed by the Dalai Lama, are touring the country to promote world peace and healing. At Cedar Lane they laid down millions of vibrantly colored grains of sand to create a mandala sand painting. Formed of a traditional prescribed iconography that includes geometric shapes and a multitude of ancient spiritual symbols, the sand-painted mandala is used as a tool for re-consecrating the earth and its inhabitants. The monks constructed the mandala between August 23rd and and August 26th.
The day included an incredibly moving ceremony that included blessings, chanting, a guided meditation, gleanings from ancient and contemporary wisdoms, and a dedication prayer.
Perhaps most moving for me was the deconstruction of the mandala. This was done as a metaphor of the impermanence of life. The sands were swept up and placed in an urn. To fulfill the function of healing, half was distributed to the congregation while the remainder was carried to Rock Creek where it was deposited. The waters then carried the healing blessing to the ocean, and from there it spreads throughout the world for planetary healing. I can say that this was a once in a lifetime experience for me and that it was both mystical and transforming. The grains of sand I received will always be a reminder of the preciousness of each moment of this fleeting life of mine.
If you would like more information or would like to see their schedule you can visit their website at https://www.mysticalartsoftibet.org
Nice NYT article on Ageing and Creativity.
It starts with research that shows how young minds are much more imaginative, but older folks are more traditional and limited when asked to explain things.
Buit, how about this:
But there was a different pattern when it came to the social problems. Once again the preschoolers were more likely to give the creative explanation than were the 6-year-olds or adults. Now, however, the teenagers were the most creative group of all. They were more likely to choose the unusual explanation than were either the 6-year-olds or the adults.
At least an argument for multi-generational input!
The explanation offered might help us think our way into a new vision of ageing:
The answer: Childhood and adolescence may, at least in part, be designed to resolve the tension between exploration and exploitation. Those periods of our life give us time to explore before we have to face the stern and earnest realities of grown-up life. Teenagers may no longer care all that much about how the physical world works. But they care a lot about exploring all the ways that the social world can be organized. And that may help each new generation change the world.
I like to think that, at our best, we are often just like teenagers, precisely because we are no longer responsible for everything. We can dream and imagine — but with the benefit of a lifetimes of learning, including our mistakes and unfulfilled dreams. So, as we move our community into a broader outreach and learning mode, maybe we are more ready than we realize. All we need is the practical support.
Any ideas for how to do the research to explore this? In our strategic plan?
One of Collington’s sibling communities in the Kendal Network has recently held up a beacon for the rest of us to follow.
Lathrop in Northampton, Massachusetts, has found a way to put our values into practice in assisting the resettlement and integration of refugees. As described by Executor Director Thom Wright:
We feel blessed to be a small part of the conversation related to refugee resettlement. As I’m sure you can attest, Kendal communities strive to put our deeply held beliefs into action each day and to foster inclusivity and diversity as intentional expressions of these values. This often leads us to consider the ways in which we can actively transform the experience of aging in community, on both a local and a global level.
At a fundamental level, Lathrop provides housing services for diverse groups seeking a place of refuge in which to engage with like-minded, value-driven contemporaries. Our inclusive environment speaks to the notion that for some who come to live at Lathrop, we are a place of ready-acceptance. We consider ourselves to truly be a safe haven.
At any given time we invariably have some unoccupied units (although our townhomes are generally 100% occupied), along with other property we own but currently do not lease, which led us to consider how we could bless others in need of transitional housing, such as homeless families and refugees.
Last year, Catholic Charities began the conversation around resettling refugees within the local community. The city of Northampton agreed to work with Catholic Charities to resettle 51 refugee families in 2017! Several of our residents subsequently joined the Circle of Care, a local volunteer cohort willing to come alongside refugee families to assist with starting anew; ESL classes, transportation, furniture, etc. Several housing providers met with the group to discuss options within the city.
It was at this point that I suggested that Lathrop might be of assistance. We have residents who teach ESL, one who speaks fluent Arabic, many highly-active caregivers and we have housing. We held a campus workshop to learn more about the resettlement process and to discuss the ways in which Lathrop could be involved. We initiated an evaluation of a home we own on an adjacent property and were not too far into our process when I received a call 2 weeks ago. A mother and her two adult sons had been cleared to arrive within days and none of the local housing options were viable due to the need for a handicapped accessible dwelling.
Unfortunately, none of our accessible apartments at the Inn were available but the next day, a resident who is co-chair of the city’s Circle of Care, asked if she and her husband could give up their townhome for two weeks and invite the refugee family to stay there, instead. A perfect solution!
I was able to offer this couple an Inn apartment and meals on our Easthampton campus and the refugee family arrived within days and settled into their “new community. ” They have been busy learning English and looking for permanent housing, with assistance from Catholic Charities and the Circle of Care. One son has even joined in with a group of residents that plays ping pong and billiards on Fridays. I am happy to say that the family will be staying for an additional two weeks but have since found suitable housing to begin the process of assimilating into Northampton.
I must share that this one small act of humanity has united our community in wonderful ways. It has reaffirmed for many that Lathrop/Kendal truly lives its values and is not isolated from global matters that matter most. We continue to dialogue around this and other areas in which Lathrop can have impact. In the coming weeks, once this lovely family has been resettled and begins to tell their story in more detail, Lathrop will also share it more broadly, with humility and gratitude to our residents who are truly the ones transforming the experience of aging for all who call Western Massachusetts, home.
What more is there to say?
Can we all try to find ways to “unite our [broader] community in wonderful ways?” Maybe the opportunity to experience an act of helping as a helper might covert some in the outside world who now fear such integration.