In communities of color in other parts of the world , there is no such thing as orphans and single parents.
Children are not left alone and people are not removed or shoved out of communities once they reach a certain age. In other words, in some places people do not have an expiration date on their minds, abilities, and what they can contribute to society once they have reached a particular number of years.
Originally, I wanted to draw attention to the ways we as Americans, particularly gay Americans, isolate and are excommunicated from the community at large.
Instead, I realized that so much of what gets done to folks in general by the larger society is what is really pissing me off.
When I lived in Japan, one of the jobs I held was assisting mentally challenged adults with acquiring English skills. After obtaining these skills, the goal was to reinstate them into society as productive, contributing society members. It prevented homelessness.
In Native American society, the beardache, recognized for their particular type of cherished masculinity, were given a great deal of societal importance and responsibility. Both of these societies, though miles apart, commit to taking care of their citizens.
People are not discarded. They are given a place in society.
In America, we could learn to do the same. All over this country, people are miserable, worried and struggling. This is not new.
I have friends who were around during the depression. There have always been poor people, addictions, and financial stress.
What is the difference between then and now ? The commitment used to be to the community and getting to know one another. The commitment was to the "Let's find a place for you" type of thinking.
This is not to say that everything was perfect or romanticize the struggles other generations endured. It is merely to point out what worked and to figure out why and how this can be reapplied to today's standards given the current circumstances.
What did we know and what did we do that allowed us to not only get along but also to thrive?
I come from a long line of folks who had to create lives amidst absolutely incredulous racism, violence and oppression. Somehow they did it.
I cringe when I hear people talk about being tired or depressed. Not because I think one doesn't get tired but because the folks I knew never had that luxury; they kept on pushing.
When you have four of five children and are responsible for everyone's well-being, a nap and the inability to get out of bed aren't really options.
You have to pull it together and get on with it. How? You are able to soldier on when you know you are part of something. When you know you are needed and that people are depending on you, it makes the fight and the resulting victory all the more sweet.
Everyone has a place in society. Everyone has something valuable to contribute.
This is why I am so against retirement. Who can continue to grow without adding something to society at large? People need reasons to get up.
I would love to see a time when folks don't retire. A time when folks instead are assigned roles as community elders, given homes, sought out and compensated for their knowledge and thinking ability.
It would be great if old folks were not shipped off to homes with other old folks but instead were given/granted a new role in their families. Wouldn't it be wonderful to see folks excited about getting older?
It would be incredible witnessing folks planning all the ways they will increase their value and strategizing how to rewrite the script of the lives of the ones they hold dear.
It would be even more exciting if the community around these elders couldn't wait to live with, be advised by, provide service, and care for them in their later years.