‘You Are Not Alone,’ an excerpt from, Now What? A Guide to the Gifts and Challenges of Aging

Connecting in healthy ways with our community

Here is an excerpt from the book’s first chapter, emphasizing the central theme that regular, meaningful connection with other people is an essential ‘social determinant of health’ as we age. The book’s first chapter begins with these words …

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In four words, the message of this book is: You are not alone.

Click on the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

Everyone from popes to pop musicians keep repeating those four words because isolation and exclusion are the two greatest threats to our health and well-being. In the pages of this book, you will learn dozens of ways people around us can help—if we reach out and welcome that assistance.

This message is no surprise after the many months of isolation in the COVID-19 pandemic. As we all recall, at the start of this global crisis, we hoped we would only need to stay in our homes for a few weeks. At first, many of us felt a bit of relief and perhaps excitement that the busyness of our lives would be replaced by some quiet time at home. Social engagements would not be honored, many of us would be working from home, our calendars were freeing up. We would all be hunkering down for a while, often with loved ones at home.

Then days rolled into weeks—and weeks into months. We longed for the ability to come and go as we pleased—to get our hair cut, to return to our houses of worship, to hug our friends and family. We moved from being alone to being lonely; from being socially isolated to feeling socially excluded. Our mental health was impacted not only by the anxiety and fear that come from living through a pandemic, but also by our lack of human connection.

A moment’s reflection will allow us to translate our personal experiences during that time of self isolation to the experiences of our aging friends, family members and neighbors.

For those who are beginning to experience some aging-related limitations, the slip into times of isolation and periods of loneliness may not have occurred as abruptly as the restrictions resulting from the pandemic. But the aging process often leads to a seemingly endless struggle with isolation and exclusion—a process that can deepen into a dangerous lack of emotional, physical and spiritual resources that can last not only for months, but for many years.

Because this book takes a strengths-based, positive approach to these challenges, the chapters offer many tips and suggestions to help individuals and families thrive and enjoy life. The book is also available immediately on Kindle.

Lucille Sider urges us to step outside: ‘The gods are painting the whole world green again!’

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EDITOR’S NOTE—Our caregiving-themed books recommend that all of us spend more time reflecting on the natural world around us. Just a few examples: Suzy Farbman’s GodSigns includes a catalytic scene as Suzy walks along the ocean shore; Never Long Enough includes gorgeous illustrations encouraging families to enjoy nature together; and Now What? urges families to maintain the mobility of aging loved ones—and lists many ideas for stepping outside. (Cover-links to those books are in the left margin.) In Lucille Sider’s memoir, Light Shines in the Darkness, the visual metaphor on the book’s cover is a glorious, sunny morning in a tree-lined meadow. This week, as spring breaks out across North America, Lucille reminds all of us:

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The gods are painting the whole world green again!

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By LUCILLE SIDER
Contributing Columnist

The ground is thawing,
Roots are stirring,
Long nights are shortening,
The sun is beaming.
Hastas peek through the ground,
Buds climb out of branches,
Grasses spread over the lawn,
Chipmunks ascend from their darkness.
The gods are painting the whole world green again!
Light green,
Lime green,
Blue green,
Olive,
All glorious greens.
Pine needles, maple leaves, ferns and holly
Tulip leaves, junipers and lily of the valley.
All gloriously Green.
My heart is charmed by,
My mind’s enlivened with,
My pores are fragrant with,
Glorious green.
Robins are singing,
Chickadees are chirping,
The whole world is chanting:
O GLORIOUS GREEN!
O GLORIOUS GREEN!

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PLEASE, feel free to share this poem with friends—our share it in your discussion group to inspire everyone to spontaneously write their own odes to spring.

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Care to Read More?

Click on the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

READ THE BOOK. You can order Lucille’s Light Shines in the Darkness from Amazon in hardcover, paperback and Kindle and Barnes & Noble—as well as many other online retailers.

And, oh yes! Of course, her book is available through Walmart (via Walmart’s website so you don’t actually have to drive to a store as Lucille did in today’s column).

Clinical psychologist and clergywoman Lucille F. Sider adds her voice to the chorus of women in the #WhyIDidntReport and #MeToo movements. This is Lucille’s story of resilience and hope as a survivor of sexual abuse. She explains the challenges of finding her way out of a fear-based spirituality into one that is full of grace, hope and forgiveness. The unique richness of her book is that she wrote it to spark healing discussion. As she describes her experiences in these pages, she also steps back and offers helpful analysis as both a psychologist and a clergywoman. At the end of the book, she includes a complete study guide with questions for reflection for individuals, small groups and classes.

“The book is arranged to be a valuable tool in the hands of persons in the helping professions, such as clergy, social workers, psychologists,” writes the Rev. Jo Anne Lyon, General Superintendent Emerita and Ambassador of The Wesleyan Church. “This writing is so powerful, yet gentle, that people will be able to add their own words to combat the pain. Lucille’s credentials enhance the power of the story. Truly a book for these days!”

“Timely, compelling and courageous, this autobiography lays bare the trauma of both child and adolescent abuse. This book deserves to be read by any adult who, living in a culture where 80 percent of females have experienced some form of sexual abuse by the age of 18, are no longer content to keep their proverbial head in the sand.” Carol Schreck, Professor Emerita of Pastoral Care and Counseling, Palmer Theological Seminary

INVITE AN AUTHOR’S ZOOM

GET IN TOUCH! Lucille Sider has received many requests to give talks and workshops—or to appear in media even in the midst of the pandemic. She considers each request and has accepted many invitations—so her voice and storytelling already is a popular part of the national conversation. Would you like to get in touch with Lucille to make such a request? Email us at [email protected] 

‘CAREGIVER,’ an exhibition: Detroit’s Hannan Center offers a virtual exploration with artists

An Invitation to Virtually Attend this Opening, May 14, 2021 (5 p.m. ET)

Detroit’s nationally known Hannan Center (here’s the century-old nonprofit’s history page) is inviting all of us to attend a virtual opening at Hannan’s main art gallery—an exhibition in which artists interpret issues around the caregiving experience.

Here is the free-registration page. If you fill out the form, you will receive an email with a link to join the hour-long program.

Help for Those Who Care: An inspiring 2-minute video and news about 1,600 new senior volunteers

Weekly News, May 3, 2021

Tell friends about this new online resource section, We Are Caregivers. Got questions or suggestions for stories we should share? Contact us at [email protected].

Enjoy Our New Video Preview

NOW WHAT? A Guide to the Gifts and Challenges of Aging is our new resource-packed book for families, caregivers and anyone concerned about aging in America. Thanks to video producer Susan Stitt, we now have a 2-minute preview clip (which you can see above) to help convince friends across your community and congregation to discuss this book’s many inspiring challenges. We have heard, now, of small groups forming nationwide from Michigan to Alabama to Oregon to Washington D.C.—men and women starting with the ideas in this book to spark fresh efforts to support caregiving. This new 2-minute video is a great way to invite friends to join you in such an effort. You also can visit our YouTube channel directly to find other easy-sharing options for this video so you can send the news via social media or email. Want even more video resources? In addition to the new, short video, you also may want to view—and share with friends—our more in-depth 48-minute launch video. That longer video introduces some of the book’s authors and provides much more information about this nationwide project.

Our Professionals Are Reaching Out

THE GREATEST STRENGTH of this new book—and efforts to reach people nationwide with these resources—is the network of professionals who contributed chapters and now are sending us news in an ongoing way. Lisa Brown wrote our chapter about the importance of taking part in community service as we age. This week, Lisa sent us this news story about AmeriCorps, the federal agency for volunteering and service, making $10 million in grants to expand Foster Grandparent and Senior Companion programs to communities in 16 states and Puerto Rico. Please, take a look at this news story—and the list of specific grants on a second page. Could this news spark fresh ideas in your community? Plan ahead for ways your organization might be featured on such a list of grants in future years.

Meditation in Motion 1: ‘This step, each step, right here, right now.’

Walking meditations are among the world’s ancient religious traditions. Many centuries ago, this idea was captured in a design element during the construction of Europe’s great cathedrals—taking the form of winding labyrinths built into the floors. This photo shows the most famous of these medieval labyrinths in the floor of Chartres Cathedral. Although labyrinths may look like a confusing tangle of lines at first glance—a labyrinth is not a maze. Mazes are built to confuse. In a labyrinth, walkers are never truly lost and always can find their way home.

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By LUCILLE SIDER
Contributing Columnist

In November 2011, I found myself physically and emotionally exhausted after my home in Binghamton, New York, flooded from an overflowing of the Susquehanna River.

After eight weeks of rotating friends and relatives throughout the cleanup, I was alone and grieving the loss of treasures I had accumulated over my entire life. In just one night, the flood took Mediterranean rugs, my mother’s priceless silverware chest and a multitude of other mementos. There simply was no replacing a priceless “Certificate of Penmanship” for my son from his kindergarten class!

Early that ninth week, I got a phone call from Frank, a friend of over 30 years. He told me to come to Chicago for the weekend. Frank was never bossy—but this time, he insisted. So I ordered my ticket and packed my bags. I was there by Friday.

Frank picked me up at O’Hare around noon. We stopped at our favorite Mediterranean restaurant in the city, which has the best tabbouleh in the world made with bunches of fresh, bright green parsley. From there, we set out on a two-hour drive north to DeKoven, a retreat center in Racine, Wisconsin.

During the drive, Frank told me how eager he was to show me the labyrinth there—he had a hunch that walking the labyrinth would help me let go of some of the stress from the flood.

I was interested. Over the years, Frank had introduced me to many kinds of meditation: sitting silently, singing, repeating a sacred word and even meditating in a creek! Frank’s confidence in the effectiveness of walking meditation assured me that it would be just right for me at this time.

I had never seen a labyrinth before, and all I knew was that it was a space for a walking meditation. A walking meditation is exactly what it suggests: the participant silently and slowly walks along the path of the labyrinth, with attention focused on each individual step. After pausing for a time in the center and listening for inner guidance, the participant walks slowly back through the path and out to the exit. This particular labyrinth was circular and about ten meters in diameter. Like all labyrinths, the pattern resembled a winding path that begins at the entrance and leads to the center. After pausing in the center, one walks back through the path and out to the point of entrance.

As I started on my walk, I was anxious—and quite agitated. After eight weeks of dealing with the emotional and financial stresses of the flood, I couldn’t seem to let go of the tension and stress.

After about ten minutes of walking I felt myself relaxing. Both my body and mind started to slow down. The walking enabled me, in the midst of the chaos, to slow down and be present to the moment. When I got to the center, the intersection of my inner wisdom and God’s wisdom spoke a phrase to me I wasn’t familiar with, but it changed everything:

This step, each step, right here, right now.
This step, each step, right here, right now.
This step, each step, right here, right now.

At the time, I did not realize that those words would echo in countless situations. In fact, they came rushing back to me the day after I returned to Binghamton. I had gone to Walmart to get groceries, but on the way home I realized my purse was not on the seat beside me where I always put it. I pulled off the road, thinking I might have put it in the back seat, but it wasn’t there. After thoroughly searching everywhere in the car, I started to panic. It was not just about the $100 in my wallet: it was about credit cards, driver’s license, medical cards and more.

Sitting on the side of the road overwhelmed, I remembered the words from walking the labyrinth:

This step, each step, right here, right now.

I repeated those words over and over, and each time I relaxed a little more.

Soon, I realized that I needed to return to Walmart to see if my purse was there. It was! The customer service desk had kept it safely for me. I had left it in my shopping cart, and the young man collecting the carts took it to the front desk. I was thrilled. Even my $100 was there. I was quite aware that the words of my labyrinth walk had spoken to me and guided me in the anxiety of possibly losing my purse. After this experience, I had a hunch that these words would guide me through many other circumstances and places.

When my home was remodeled after the flood, almost everywhere in and around the property became its own space for a walking meditation. I walked around my dining room table then to the living room with its floor-to-ceiling fireplace made of riverbed stones. Then on to the kitchen with its glorious island and many windows bringing in the eastern light. Often I’d walk outside onto my large deck and through my winding garden. When snow came, I walked in the empty lot next to my house. Leaving footprints on the snow illustrated the words of my meditation.

This this step, each step, right here, right now.

After a year, I felt a strong desire to introduce walking meditation to my church, Tabernacle United Methodist Church in Binghamton. In a large room, I led a walking meditation with eight participants. We had no set path, so I slowly led us around the perimeter of the room then into the center. There we paused with hearts open to receive any guidance from our inner wisdom or God’s wisdom. Finally, we walked around the perimeter once again and then we sat down in an intimate circle. We shared our experiences. We reflected on hopes and fears, joys and sorrows. Listening to each one made it immediately clear that this meditation was speaking to all of us. The steady, slow walking brought relief and comfort and often insight.

Six months later, our group designed an oval labyrinth for that large room. The center was shaped like a lotus. We aptly named it the Lotus Labyrinth, and continued to meet and walk monthly. It was a precious time.
Four years later I moved back to Chicago where I had lived most of my adult life and where my beloved friend Frank lived. Immediately, walking meditation became foundational to my peace of mind. The walks around my house in Binghamton soon transformed into walks along Lake Michigan and in my apartment in Hyde Park. The skyline brought me inner peace day after day.

Chicago prides itself in an abundance of walking opportunities. Most glorious is the 18 miles along the beautiful shoreline of Lake Michigan and the Chicago loop—the stunning array of buildings—both new and old. (Here is a link to the City of Chicago’s own online guide to the shoreline walk.)

Chicago also invests deeply and proudly in its countless neighborhood parks. Yes, every neighborhood has at least one park and often more. Then there are forest preserves. Twenty six forest preserves in Cook County of which Chicago is a part! Now that is some serious walking!

Since moving back to Chicago, I’ve walked three church labyrinths. The first was a small concrete labyrinth in the yard of a Roman Catholic Church that featured a statue of Mary. The second, in a Lutheran church, was defined by a pathway of flowers. As a lover of flowers, I cherished each one. And the third was in the basement of the National Cathedral in Washington DC. It was 13 meters in diameter, and a replica of the one in Chartres Cathedral in France which was built in the 12th century. (Here is a link to the National Cathedral’s labyrinth programs.)

Each of these have brought me stillness and peace, especially in troubling times. In every setting, the words bubbled up in the same way they did that first evening of walking the The DeKoven labyrinth.

This step, each step, right here, right now.
This step, each step, right here, right now.

With that mantra deep in my soul, I know that I am able to face whatever challenge life throws my way.

For that, I am deeply, deeply grateful.

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A special “thank you” goes out, this week, to contributing editor Cody Harrell.

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Care to Read More?

Click on the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

READ THE BOOK. You can order Lucille’s Light Shines in the Darkness from Amazon in hardcover, paperback and Kindle and Barnes & Noble—as well as many other online retailers.

And, oh yes! Of course, her book is available through Walmart (via Walmart’s website so you don’t actually have to drive to a store as Lucille did in today’s column).

Clinical psychologist and clergywoman Lucille F. Sider adds her voice to the chorus of women in the #WhyIDidntReport and #MeToo movements. This is Lucille’s story of resilience and hope as a survivor of sexual abuse. She explains the challenges of finding her way out of a fear-based spirituality into one that is full of grace, hope and forgiveness. The unique richness of her book is that she wrote it to spark healing discussion. As she describes her experiences in these pages, she also steps back and offers helpful analysis as both a psychologist and a clergywoman. At the end of the book, she includes a complete study guide with questions for reflection for individuals, small groups and classes.

“The book is arranged to be a valuable tool in the hands of persons in the helping professions, such as clergy, social workers, psychologists,” writes the Rev. Jo Anne Lyon, General Superintendent Emerita and Ambassador of The Wesleyan Church. “This writing is so powerful, yet gentle, that people will be able to add their own words to combat the pain. Lucille’s credentials enhance the power of the story. Truly a book for these days!”

“Timely, compelling and courageous, this autobiography lays bare the trauma of both child and adolescent abuse. This book deserves to be read by any adult who, living in a culture where 80 percent of females have experienced some form of sexual abuse by the age of 18, are no longer content to keep their proverbial head in the sand.” Carol Schreck, Professor Emerita of Pastoral Care and Counseling, Palmer Theological Seminary

Invite an author’s Zoom

GET IN TOUCH! Lucille Sider has received many requests to give talks and workshops—or to appear in media even in the midst of the pandemic. She considers each request and has accepted many invitations—so her voice and storytelling already is a popular part of the national conversation. Would you like to get in touch with Lucille to make such a request? Email us at [email protected] 

 

 

Meditation in Motion 2: ‘Rock on, Brothers and Sisters!’

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EDITOR’s NOTE: In addition to his powerful memoir, The Black Knight, retired Col. Clifford Worthy loves to reflect on the values and moments of grace in his long life through prose-poems he shares with us occasionally. Here is one of his gems … 

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The Rocking Chair

By CLIFFORD WORTHY
Contributing Columnist

It can be crisply argued that nothing may be more emblematic of solitary contentment than the rhythmic rocking imparted by a rocking chair.

The lulling to and fro movement engenders a deep state of serenity.

The wonder of rocking is the payoff:
A cocoon of muted tranquility,
A meditation in motion,
A paradigm for constructive simplicity.

How can you not re-create in such a setting?

In these days, overwhelmed by the WOW of gadgets and cyber gimmickry,
A rocker is palpably refreshing to celebrate tidiness and the wonders of old-fashioned living.

Alcohol imbibing while rocking would be voyeuristic.
Lemonade or iced tea on a side table would be complementary.

One can blissfully imagine all the others—the Rockwellian imagery of rocking chairs occupied by silver-haired grandmothers rocking babies as witnessed by goo-goo-eyed parents, a picture of joy warmed over.

Settled therapeutics confirm rocking’s effectiveness in combatting anxiety, tension, depression, vertigo, mobility and chronic pain.

So, rock on brothers and sisters.

Rock on!

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Care to learn more?

Click the cover to visit the book’s Amazon page.

Get a copy of Col. Worthy’s life story, The Black Knight, for yourself—and order more copies for friends and loved ones on your holiday shopping list who are especially interested in stories from our U.S. armed forces. There are many themes in this illustrated memoir, including the challenges Col. Worthy and his wife faced raising a special needs son in an era when professional help for such families was in its infancy.

Clifford Worthy, the great grandson of slaves, was one of the few African-American men of his generation who was accepted and excelled as a Black Knight of the Hudson, a traditional nickname for West Point cadets. Col. Worthy describes his journey to West Point, the many challenges he overcame both in his family and in the U.S. Army, including service in the front lines of Vietnam.

Rick Forzano, former Head Coach of the Detroit Lions praises Col. Worthy’s memoir and his example to all of us. “He has fought his way through virtually every stage in life with his faith in God giving him the necessary strength and courage,” Forzano writes.

Invite an author’s Zoom

GET IN TOUCH! At his mid 90s and with the distinction of being the oldest living Black graduate of West Point, Col. Worthy receives many requests to appear on podcasts, plus radio, TV and newspaper interviews. Even in the midst of this pandemic, he considers each request and has accepted many invitations—so his voice and storytelling already is a popular part of the national conversation. Would you like to get in touch with Col. Worthy to make such a request? Email us at [email protected] 

 

50 Million American Caregivers face challenges. We’re sharing solutions.

Weekly News, April 19, 2021

Tell friends about this new online resource section, We Are Caregivers. Got questions or suggestions for stories we should share? Contact us at [email protected].

Joining with the Solutions Journalism Network to help caregivers

OUR PUBLISHING HOUSE is making an ongoing commitment to collaborate with the Journalism Solutions Network (JSN) to encourage news media coverage of helpful ideas for America’s more than 50 million caregivers—especially those who serve as lifelines for aging men and women. In this story, we report on the JSN’s efforts, then we link to the new JSN website that showcases recent reporting—and finally we share a video-preview of our own important contribution to this network: the new book “Now What? A Guide to the Gifts and Challenges of Aging.” 

Catholic Nuns are in decline, but they’re also a font of creativity

PATRICIA MONTEMURRI, one of the veteran writers who contributed to the new “Now What?” book just published a major magazine-style overview for The Detroit Free Press exploring the challenges facing Catholic women religious. The headline on her story captures this fascinating article’s theme: “What is the future for Catholic sisters? There isn’t just one answer but there is hope in what is happening in Michigan and the nation.” (PLEASE NOTE: We apologize in advance if you cannot see this story. We are aware that the Free Press website has a paywall that bars non-subscribers from seeing much content. However, the site does allow a very limited number of articles to be read. Patricia’s feature story is so compelling, we’re hoping you’ll be able to read it.)

Pastoral Caregiving in America’s Struggle for Justice

CAREGIVING TAKES MANY FORMS and clergy across the United States devoted prayers and spiritual counsel for worshipers over the past week as the trial over the death of George Floyd nears its conclusion. One that especially caught our eye was this eloquent pastoral letter from Bishop David Bard, who oversees United Methodist congregations across Michigan and Minnesota. Bard’s headline: Repairing the Breach, Restoring the Streets.

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