Becoming the ancestor you want to be

I recently wrote about what kind of ancestor do you want to be? Despite the anxiety of exposing yourself to the world, one good thing about writing on a blog is sometimes someone leaves a useful comment. In response to that blog post, someone mentioned the book What Kind of Ancestor Do You Want to Be? by John Hausdoerffer, Brooke Parry Hecht, Melissa K. Nelson, and Katherine Kassouf Cummings.

The book has made me realize there is much more we can do to become the ancestor we want to be.

I imagine most of us are taught how we live our lives may be seen as an example to others, good or bad. Many believe actions speak louder than words. So I have worked hard to be a good example to others. By how I lived my life more than what I write or say. (which you might question from seeing all that I write).

There have been times when I questioned whether our example had any influence on others. Fifty years ago, as I began to live on my own, I refused to have a car because of the impact on Mother Earth. I waited (and waited, and waited) for others to give up their own cars. We now see how well that worked.

But that illustrates something else about being an example. There are probably many ways others might be affected that we have no way of knowing.

I thought living my beliefs was how I would be the ancestor I wanted to be. This is more eloquently expressed in the following quotes from the book.

What this book has taught me is there is more we can do intentionally to be the kind of ancestor we want to be. We should engage with youth in ways to help them take over from us. Becoming the ancestor we want to be is an active process.

As I aged, I wondered who might continue to work on things I think are important. Subconsciously I was looking for that person. In the fall of 2017 I saw the story of Rezadad Mohammadi’s work with the American Friends Service Committee related to the war on drugs, incarceration and solitary confinement, and work on a mural giving immigrants a voice in their community. I wrote a post about that on my blog. Scattergood graduate’s social justice video project.

Mural1

I thought Reza might be a young person to engage regarding some of the things I had been working on. He had recently graduated from the Quaker boarding school I attended, Scattergood Friends School and Farm in Eastern Iowa. That let me know he learned some about Quaker values.

He accepted my Facebook friend request and the rest, as they say, was history. Reza was from Afghanistan. I learned a lot from him about that country, and a little about living in a war torn land.

We have become close friends. Fortunately, he came to Indianola, where I live, to attend Simpson College. You can find the many blog posts that mentioned him here: reza | Quakers, social justice and revolution

  • But for some examples, he wrote this article on my blog: Should the United States leave Afghanistan?
  • Reza became involved with the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL). He worked there one summer and attended two Spring Lobby Weekends, where youth lobby congress people with the guidance of FCNL. For the second visit, he organized a group of Simpson College students to attend.
  • Last year Reza and I went to Scattergood to talk about our environmental work. He described his project at Simpson related to plastics and pollution. His group made eating places at the College stop using plastic straws.
  • He went with me for support when I spoke about the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March to the International League of Women Voters.
  • Reza was involved in the rallies at Simpson College when a racial incident occurred there.

I am glad to know he will continue to do this work.

Just as we prepare the young to step into adulthood and release childish ways for the health and growth of society , so the practice of becoming an ancestor requires the release of our grip upon what is , the letting go of certain ways of being in the world to embrace the changes required for the stream of life to keep flowing vigorously.

What Kind of Ancestor Do You Want to Be? by John Hausdoerffer, Brooke Parry Hecht, Melissa K. Nelson, and Katherine Kassouf Cummings

Anishinaabe elder Michael Dahl posed the question : What Kind of Ancestor Do You Want to Be ? We view this compelling question as eternally urgent . Eternal because it calls forth ancient wisdom and multigenerational ethics necessary for any human community to survive and thrive . Urgent because the planetary impacts of colonial overconsumption of resources and domination of peoples dramatically threatens the livability of this planet . More than asking us how we want to be remembered , the question of What Kind of Ancestor Do You Want to Be ? suggests that we are , always and already , ancestors — even if we never are remembered or never have children . The question deepens our awareness of the roots and reach of all of our actions and non – actions . In every moment , whether we like it or not and whether we know it or not , we are advancing values and influencing systems that will continue long past our lifetimes . These values and systems shape communities and lives that we will never see . The ways we live create and reinforce the foundation of life for future generations . We are responsible for how we write our values , what storylines we further and set forth — the world we choose to cultivate for the lives that follow ours . So how are we to live ?

What Kind of Ancestor Do You Want to Be? by John Hausdoerffer, Brooke Parry Hecht, Melissa K. Nelson, and Katherine Kassouf Cummings

Just as we prepare the young to step into adulthood and release childish ways for the health and growth of society , so the practice of becoming an ancestor requires the release of our grip upon what is , the letting go of certain ways of being in the world to embrace the changes required for the stream of life to keep flowing vigorously.

What Kind of Ancestor Do You Want to Be? by John Hausdoerffer, Brooke Parry Hecht, Melissa K. Nelson, and Katherine Kassouf Cummings

Being a good ancestor means understanding how to handle power, when to hold it, when to hand it over, and how to transform it.

What Kind of Ancestor Do You Want to Be? by John Hausdoerffer, Brooke Parry Hecht, Melissa K. Nelson, and Katherine Kassouf Cummings

One thought on “Becoming the ancestor you want to be

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: