I was struck by an article in the local paper about a formerly impoverished young African American man, Ajmaj Jackson Brown, a recent graduate from Hampshire College. Because his interests in computers had been encouraged in high school, he found himself able to easily transition into his college classes and quickly able to support himself through college with newly acquired skills.
He noted that a very small percentage of African Americans populate the employee ranks of the high tech social media companies like Google and Facebook. His question to himself: How could he replicate his own path to success for other talented highschoolers?
His recently launched pre-college coding academy and financial literacy program for disadvantaged and talented teens, helped by a grant from Stone Soup Leadership Institute , was held at the local library. Graduates of his first 10-week program celebrated their accomplishments this month, May 2016, when each member announced their new income producing skill via a website of his/her own creation.
A very young man got into action to change his world at the grass roots level. It was his “gig,” perhaps the first of many. As an elder observer, I was inspired. I am hopeful that we, myself and my peers in the elder ranks, don’t shy away from assuming an equal competence to engage with an issue that would be valuable to society. What sort of “gig” would allow us to play a new elder role in life and fulfill our need to both be useful and feel useful?
My friend Adrian Stair asserts that we older folks become bonafide “elders”, when we consciously adopt a social role of doing something that matters for our families and communities. And that most likely means, daring to create a way to be useful …a “gig.”
Ajmaj Jackson Brown was wise beyond his years. At 26, his reflections on his own life experiences had already been sufficient to give him something to share for the benefit of others.
And so, I got to thinking about my life which has always been about promoting reflection and growth. Here’s the form it is taking as we speak.
I’m noticing that I’ve become an advocate for the Third Chapter Conversations which can illuminate purpose and power among those of us over 60 and 70. Myself included. Gifted with a longevity we didn’t anticipate, how do we encourage ourselves and each other to talk “sooner than later” about the issues that face us as we make peace wth our mortality? What are the dilemmas that surface as we explore how to use our remaining years well? How will we live more true to ourselves? How will we die without regrets? How do we not leave a mess for our children?
Out of this awareness, an experiment was born. This Spring 2016 at Holyoke COA , a friend and I offered a series of topics, Third Chapter Conversations from March through June, exploring the variety of ways to have a good life, a good death, and the choices that might allow each of them. Participants were pleased to have had a venue in which to explore the life questions that are surfacing for them during their own elder years.
Apparently, that’s my “gig” right now. While still an “experiment”, it is clearly filling a need for reflective folks eager to talk with others about facing mortality in graceful ways. And, BTW, the creation and the execution of those programs has filled a need in me.
So….come on along….
If your life is yearning for more meaning, purpose, and satisfaction, what are you noticing is important to you? What’s needed in the world from the presence that is you? What is your current “gig”? Or, what might it be?
All experiments welcome!