Thursday, October 25, 2007

Where is my Voice?

"It is said in Hopi prophecy that when the Grandmothers speak, Peace will return to the Earth."

I just recently came across this quotation on a website called A Grandmothers’ Tribe.
( A Grandmother’s Tribe is a film that captures the lives of two Kenyan grandmothers who have stepped into the void created by the AIDS epidemic -- giving insight into their world of survival in village and urban life. The following is the overview about this film:
It is estimated that 63% of HIV-infected individuals in the world (approximately 25 of 40 million) live in the sub-Sahara region of Africa. These numbers have created an unprecedented 13 million orphans.

These two incredible women represent thousands of their kind who, in this late stage of life, are literally starting over again to raise orphaned children -- feeding, educating and caring for the “sickly” ones. The challenge is enormous as they deal with the grief of their own losses and poor health in order to feed, educate and care for an ever-growing number of orphaned children. They struggle on a daily basis to come to terms with a disease they do not understand -- an unnamed disease whose stigma isolates them further from the communities they depend on to survive.

Stephen Lewis, Former UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa and Chair of the Stephen Lewis Foundation comments about the movie: “Grandmothers have emerged as the unsung heroes of Africa. These magnificently courageous women bury their own children and then look after their orphan grandchildren, calling on astonishing reserves of love and emotional resilience… They commit their frail and elderly lives – what is left of their lives – completely to the needs of the orphans.”

I am reading this Hopi wisdom, and this quotation from Stephen Lewis as I look at the web site of A Grandmother’s Tribe while I sip my afternoon latte in my local LuvAJava café in San Francisco, and it gives me pause.

I, in no way, dispute the Hopi concept that IF/WHEN grandmothers around the world speak, PEACE will be near. In fact, every part of my DNA says YES!" to this concept. There is great wisdom in older women. (If you haven’t read The Great Silent Grandmother Gathering by Sharon Mehdi, you must! This inspirational story of two grandmothers standing silently in a local park as their way to help “save the world,” is a tale that gives substance to the Hopi words.) Yet if I truly believe it, where is my voice? I am silent right now… I just retired in June… I have promised myself to be in the moment…do not commit to anything for at least a year…enjoy all that the unencumbered life has to offer… ah, and this life is so sweet.

I can so clearly remember when I was in college, majoring in sociology, and announcing to anyone who cared to listen that I was going to save the world. I worked on the Floating Hospital Boat in NYC taking women and children from the slums of New York on a day cruise- providing free medical and dental care, a good meal, and a lot of love…for the day. I remember speaking to a worn, burned out social worker who said, “Listen girl- you’ll never change the world until the world cares more about her people than her paper reports, and that ain’t coming any time soon.” I became a teacher and convinced myself that I was affecting the future of our world by challenging young minds to think independently. I became a mother – the most important and challenging role of my life, and I have made an imprint on future generations through my three amazing sons. I’ve done some good things; I’ve made some regrettable mistakes… but I’m sixty-three- and I just want to relax a bit, take it easy, take in the scenery, be open to whatever the day has to offer me.

Do you see my quandary? I believe in the Power of Grandmothers to change the course of a family, a community, the world. I love and have huge respect for those two grandmothers in Kenya- amazing women. But right now I am reveling in my afternoon latte in my small little LuvaJava café in San Francisco. Will I find my voice? What will it say?