This has been a busy month at Hope & A Future. We are so happy to have volunteers joining us again! Flowers are blooming, trees are lush and we are eating out of the garden. Summer is such a wonder–especially when you get to enjoy it with a child! (Volunteer groups pictured below.)
I have also been in many meetings as we work on navigating the path forward for our expansion. There is excitement in the air! The many people working on this are aware that our success will pave the way for replication of future intergenerational neighborhoods. This is complicated work. This week we had the honor of meeting with our Mayor, Deputy Mayor and City Planner in Madison. While we have met with the city planner many times over the past decade, this was an introductory meeting with the Mayor and Deputy Mayor. As I briefly reviewed our 20 year history of work to create a replicable model and what we have learned and accomplished in our first phase, I found myself rising out of the weeds of details with rekindled joy. The TIIN (Therapeutic Interactive INtergenerational Neighborhood) has always been about creating a safe and beautiful place where the generations are brought together and empowered to encourage, help and love each other. TIIN goals include the hope of creating a diverse and inclusive neighborhood that offers a variety of onsite jobs with a plethora of volunteer opportunities. Neighbors identify purpose, roles and a genuine sense of belonging as they build equity for each other. It is a place where people can have fun while being helped and helpful at the same time. The hope of the model is that people will experience the joy of meaningful intergenerational relationships. Part of that joy is inviting the surrounding community to join in the fun. We want to continue to offer an intergenerational contact zone that gives the feeling of being welcomed home to visitors and residents. Hope & A Future is a beautiful place. Getting out to talk about our current community has reawakened the hope our expansion offers to younger and older generations.
As a Grandmother (pronounced “Gama” by my Grandson!) I have been rediscovering the joy of summer with a not quite two year old. His first experiences with a sandy beach, “water weeds”, a picnic in the rain and fireworks have made summer feel like a rediscovery to me. I also love watching Leon develop his unique set of God given skills and abilities. I hope to help foster the development of his special talents and abilities. My own childhood is blessed with beautiful memories of learning about life with my Grandparents and the many additional seniors that were an integral part of my life. I have worked with seniors most of my career and now I find myself “in the senior role” and I am loving it. Seeing life through young eyes brings back the thrill of discovery that I hope I will continue to enjoy for the rest of my future!
Life can take hard turns, but when sprinkled with intergenerational discovery I find it seasoned just right–with simple joys, a bit of fear and a lot of wonder! I have thought a number of times this week about the last months I spent with my dear friend (and employer for many years) Professor William H Sewell. Posthumously the Sociology building at the UW Madison was named after him. He was a tremendous leader in his field. I worked as a Private Duty Nurse for Bill and his wife Liz during the last years of their lives. During that time, Bill was once invited to be part of a think tank hosted by the UW. The event was on the night of a weekly intergenerational party I helped Bill host. After the fact, Bill told me he declined the invitation because it interfered with our party. I was horrified he was missing this opportunity at the UW and offered to reschedule. Bill was firm on his decision. He said, “These parties are medicine for me. I feel energized by them for days afterward. I believe I know what everyone flying in for the think tank is going to say. They haven’t said anything new for years. But at the parties, the children are always saying something new! I would rather be at the party and I do not want to reschedule it.” I will admit I was flabbergasted. Months later and on his deathbed, Bill said to me, “Bring the generations of children together, so they can be helped as much as Liz and I have.” I have cherished the fact that he told me to bring the generations of children together. There is a surprising amount of joy and playfulness to this work and finding your inner child is good medicine! Now that I am of an age that defines me as an official senior, I find myself enjoying the medicine of children too!.
I have always known that intergenerational friends broadened my view point, expanded my joy and took problem solving to a new dimension. Together intergenerational friends can rekindle the amazement of nature, each other and our amazing Universe! Our minds, bodies and spirits prosper from joy. If you need some joy, try to create an intergenerational happening or come to one of ours! You will be so happy you did!
Here is to enjoying beautiful summer days!
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”. Jeremiah 29:11 NIV