Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Simple Wisdom of Our Elders: The Troop Greeters in Bangor, Maine (The Way We Get By)

After watching
 this  grace-filled documentary,
i was very quiet and my heart was expanded.
I felt real affection and concern for those I'd "met" through the film.
I wanted to get to Maine, quickly, before a death left me unable to say, "thank you for allowing your life moments to be filmed." Thank you for so many things.
Each life: A simple enough life, with all the layered complexities a simple life has. We recognize ourselves or our own in these folks.
Here: http://www.pbs.org/pov/waywegetby/
is the film.   pictures and slideshow HERE.
" Synopsis  On call 24 hours a day for the past five years, a group of senior citizens has made history by greeting over 900,000 American troops at a tiny airport in Bangor, Maine. The Emmy-nominated film, The Way We Get By, is an intimate look at three of these greeters as they confront the universal losses that come with aging and rediscover their reason for living. Bill Knight, Jerry Mundy and Joan Gaudet find the strength to overcome their personal battles and transform their lives through service. This inspirational and surprising story shatters the stereotypes of today's senior citizens as the greeters redefine the meaning of community. A co-production of Dungby Productions and ITVS in association with WGBH and Maine Public Broadcasting Network (MPBN) with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB)."

I do not yet (know or) have words for the impact of this film on me--though it was validating to read the comments on the webpage from the many who opened up with their own moments. And there are many different ways this film must have touched people- some for this reason, some for that. For all its layers, the deep and common sense wisdom that comes with life and living was what caught me. I'd heard, Kahil Gibran: "The more deeply that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain..." which to me sounds like the wisdom of the so called Elderly.

I wanted to mention a two-part experience I had.
I was in a major city on the East Coast, after college graduation.
I was young
and anyone older than 40 or 50 held much less interest for me than a younger person--
although i did not know that at the time.
Looking back, i think i assumed about myself that i found each individual a wonderful and interesting possibility. but it was not true.

1.  I was driving through town
and passed by a man who was walking on the sidewalk.
He was somewhere between 48 and 68, i guess; just a tiny bit hunched over, his grumpy jacket and old shoes both so neutrally discolored that he was almost invisible. It was early afternoon and it seemed his day was over. He had a small brown bag in his hand and without looking up or right or left, allowed his body to propel itself to his home (i presumed) where he would sit in a chair and consume whatever was in the bag; probably watching television.
No one was waiting for him. No one was wondering how his day had been. There was no mail, no beeping message machine. He was left here on the planet and was living out his days.
As for me-No matter how far away from home I was, how long since i had contacted my family or friends, i knew they were there. There would never be a day that i would be alone. I always was unconciously Rich with those who cared about me.
I did not, and could not know what his experience of living was.
I pondered him for some days.

2. As i walked down a major street, a man approached from the opposite direction. He was not young, like me, and not dressed in colors, or scented, like I was. As he came closer, it was clear he was at least a generation ahead of me.
And i almost ignored him.
SUddenNly, my body got a little jolt.
His eyes! He looked like my father!
My father, who was a crack-up funny guy, terribly smart, wiser than anyone, kind and compassionate.
My Dad! who was the best guy, the best teacher, the best company commander, the guy whose games drew all the kids from the neighborhood to our yard in the evenings, to play red-light/green-light or Mother May I?
What if, somewhere, some full-of-life young woman (semi-conscious girl) walked by My Father and Ignored him!?
What a loss for her!
But what a disrespect for him. He would forgive her, lost in her thoughts or deliberately not paying attention. He would know; he surely had been there once, too. But if i was there, i would have said to her,
"Of all the people you pass, you really want to say HI to this guy. It would hurt my feelings to have him disrespected, unappreciated, ignored.

The Math:
Somehow,
number 1 and number 2 got together and i began to find everyone i pass a wonderful and interesting possibility.






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