Intergenerational Leadership

A quick snapshot from the 20th Song and Story Fest in 2016.

Written by Bev Eikenberry, OEP Board Member, for the 2020 OEP Spring Newsletter. In response to the OEP value Intergenerational Leadership.


Parent to a three-year-old son: “Maybe Grandma would like to play on the Wii with you.” 

Three-year-old son: “Grandma doesn’t like killing”

 -- a moment of teaching from an elder.  

“Sometimes [people] just need a friend rather than a time out;” a four-year-old reflects on how to support a fellow preschooler who is being disruptive in class

 -- a moment of teaching from a child.

As a young adult, I thought as we grow older, we become wiser. So I often asked questions of elders. I realized with time that my generalization’s thought, we grow wiser with age, was not always true. There were some who became wise and some that offered me no wisdom. 

One learned professor, who traveled widely and regularly, presented on current events with astute historical knowledge and understanding and offered a unique kind of wisdom. His conclusion was that “history repeats itself.”  While living with that understanding, this man actively worked for peace and supported efforts of justice. His choice to pursue peace and justice, when he understood the world to not be changing, is an inspiration for me.

As a parent, I thought children were molded by the loving care of parents, so I took on that role. As I listened to preschoolers, I was often surprised by their wisdom and inspired by them. They came to us with an understanding of equity.  An example was at a birthday party for a 3-year-old. After opening his first present, he was handed another.  He turned to his brother and said, “your turn.” Or when a child, after saving his first allowance wants to give it all in the church offering. Kids get it; we can glean from their wisdom.

One of the first steps to “honor the wisdom, skill, and experience of all generations” is to recognize it, to acknowledge it when we experience it, and to not only pay attention but also to expand it.  Support the wisdom gleaned, no matter the age, by sharing that wisdom with others. Facilitate desired wise action, especially of children and elders who can so easily be ignored.

Time and again, we witness the suppression of young adults who bring their wisdom to the public stage. They have carried their inner wisdom of justice with them from birth.  They have energy and hope. As we acknowledge the wisdom in their actions to stand for justice, to reset the standards for equity, to cut the chains of oppression, we can support them in significant ways. We can give them tools for success through training; we can listen them back into their own wisdom; we can hope and struggle with them.

We envision a world in Beloved Community liberated from oppression, violence, and war. We need all kinds of wisdom and experience to realize this vision. We need the grandparents, the learned professors, the clear, uncomplicated just view of preschoolers, and the young adults who courageously set out to take action.

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  • Elizabeth Gaver
    published this page in Blog 2020-05-20 12:02:53 -0400
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