Ode to our Parents during Challenging Times

My mother grew up in Italy during the Second World War. Food at that time was scarce, and she recalls watching her mother almost getting killed by a hungry ‘enemy’ soldier who was threatening her to get something to eat. My mother did survive those times of crisis, and many more in her life. To me, she is one of the most resourceful people I know. She seems to be ready for any situation and is often forward thinking. Needless to say, these strengths I see in her are so much needed as I live and make sense of the present pandemic and survive through it.

It is at times like these that perhaps, we can pause and reflect on our lives, on our sense of self, and what contributed to who we are today, including parents and elders in our lives. As I churn on these thoughts, I have also reached out to Trainer Facilitator and Public Speaker Ruth Paulos, a practitioner focusing on Wellness in Leadership to elicit her wisdom on the following questions:

  1. What do you remember about your childhood, and interaction with your parents?
  2. What values do you believe your parents have transmitted to you?
  3. Are we taking forward enough of the learning we were passed on from past generations? Are we taking advantage of this leadership development opportunity?
  4. What would intergenerational dialogue look like?
  5. During such challenging times, what wisdom from your parents would you like to transmit?
  6. Is there anything you would like to share with us, regarding this theme?

Here are Ruth’s thoughts:

\"\"I was a very energetic, highly curious and creative child, so you can imagine how much wisdom it required to raise me. This challenge was solely granted to my Mother, when my Father died at such a tender age for me. I learned a great deal from her example, especially through the values that she conveyed to me over the years. A few of these values include, being loving and trusting God, having integrity, valuing country, respecting all people, being kind to/caring for people and animals, sharing what I have, and an increasing curiosity to know more (grew up reading books).

Life is a beautiful journey of continual learning and growth. I practice each value I have imbibed to the best of my ability as I continue to grow as a leader, but there is always room for improvement. Leadership, after all, is about influencing others (positively) by becoming the change we desire to see in the world. I’m giving my all to live up to that.
If we were to encourage intergenerational dialogue, it would have to include community-based platforms where at least three generations are represented to strategize, discuss and roll-out action plans. A few reasons for creating such platforms include:

  • experience sharing and simply enjoying being together
  • sharing lessons learned on best practices of raising children and preparing them for the 21st century
  • identifying practices and methods for supporting the new generation, and
  • documenting such dialogues for posterity.

In such increasingly challenging times where the very heart of community is being threatened, the wisdom from my Mother that I would like to transmit is: surrender to the Almighty in prayer, help others, share resources, and live with integrity. Parents and elders must work hard towards inspiring the younger generation, to aspire for togetherness and building strong community ties, starting from the immediate family. This will continue to be challenging with social media replacing human contact in so many settings but we all move forward with Faith, knowing every step in the right direction will eventually lead us to our goal.

May our lives continue to be richer with every life we are so blessed to know and touch.’

There is so much depth we can draw from Ruth’s reflections. Like her I feel my parents passed on many values, these including paying attention to resources used, having upmost respect for fellow human beings, being conscientious and responsible, and making every experience a learning opportunity.

As I raise my son now, I am more conscious of the values transmitted to me and attempt to practice them with awareness.

I am attracted to Ruth’s thoughts on how to promote intergenerational dialogue, especially on how to document them for future use.

I also resonate with Ruth’s call for elders and the young alike to come together and aspiring to build strong communities at a time when the heart of such communities feels threatened. This will require us to pay attention to each other: how are we doing physically, emotionally and mentally? We can also be a gift to our parents and the elders and ensure that they are well and keeping calm and grounded during times of social distancing during the pandemic.

Harvesting the Learning

Taking stock of these reflections, during such times of transition and emergency, we can look at our parents, our elders, our past to get a better sense of who we are. As we mourn the fact that our lives may never be the same because of the impact of COVID -19, we can still celebrate what we have lived so far. I am celebrating the contribution of my parents in my life: feeling this sense of belonging makes me stay grounded. I am pausing to bow down to them and say: ‘thank you’. And with that, I feel renewed energy to move forward into the future.