Just a day after returning from a legacy writing retreat with a focus on migration and legacy, I found myself in a nail salon listening to a woman sitting behind me. Her voice was thin and dull. I heard no expression of feeling though she didn’t seem to notice. What she said so blandly was heartbreaking!
She described herself and her partner as 3M transplants. She was planning
for the wedding of her son, who no longer lived nearby. She said that though both her husband’s parents are still alive, they won’t attend the wedding, because they’ve moved to Phoenix and no longer travel.
On the surface a conversation I might not even have noticed — but after a week of readings, writings, and discussion about displaced people “innocent transplants” — more than 45.2 million refugees struggle on our planet today according to the UN Refugee Agency — her conversation gripped my heart. This disrupted family story has been repeated non-stop since God told Abraham to leave his father and his land and go forth — until this very day.
Individual stories of psychic, physical, and family exile lurk beneath the studies and statistics. Whole villages forced off the land — generations of agricultural families moved as one to work in urban factories — for economic progress.
Corporations and militaries transplant people at will. We have more than 600,000 homeless people on any given night in the U.S.
When my nails were dry, I continued on to the grocery store. On my way home, I found myself in a long line of cars waiting to turn left onto the highway. I was stopped right next to a homeless man standing on the median holding a sign that read “Disabled and Homeless Vet.” I lowered my window to acknowledge him, and he told me he’d been waiting four years for Social Security to approve his disability payments.
All this in our world in which conversation has become social media, in which families that sat by the fire on cold winter evenings passing forward family history, stories and values — the legacy activity of oral tradition — are no more. They’ve been replaced by individuals insulated from one another, attached to their devices of the moment, amusing themselves or trying desperately to
communicate with others.
How to not just turn our backs on problems so huge, so horrific, so beyond fixing? How to turn around our exile from ourselves and participate with our fellow human beings whose only legacy for their children is more homelessness and exile? What can each one of us do? What will we tell our children and grandchildren?
I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble. — Helen Keller
Suggestions for Action:
1. Take time for nostalgia — immerse yourself regularly in memories of hoe and family — write them down and share them.
2. Organize your piles of pictures — mail them to people with a note even if you’ve not seen the for decades.
3. Take your mother, aunt, cousin to lunch or tea and have a real conversation.
4. Gather friends for an all day “confab.” Silence all electronic devices.
5. Hug a child. Read a story to a grandchild or a young child in your building.
In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things
with great love. — Mother Teresa
6. Volunteer your time regularly to a cause dear to your heart.
7. Reach beyond your comfort level to communicate with someone different from you. Share how you got “here,” wherever that is.
8. Have a good cry about all the homes you’ve personally migrated from. Reflect and write about what was lost and what was gained with each physical and psychic migration in your life.
9. Write a legacy letter to someone you love about home.
10. Finally please don’t fall back to sleep — think about your own and others’ migrations, displacements, homelessness, exiles. Talk about it with others. Learn about it from others. Most important, don’t turn your back on this powerful legacy that affects all of us.
— Rachael Freed
NEW Your Legacy Matters is now available everywhere. 2012 editions also available of Women’s Lives, Women’s Legacies, Passing Your Beliefs and Blessings to Future Generations, The Legacy Workbook for the Busy Woman, Heartmates: A Guide for the Partner and Family of the Heart Patient, and The Heartmates Journal. (All legacy books are available as pdf’s on the life-legacies website.) Senior Fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Spirituality and Healing, Rachael is a clinical social worker, adult educator and provides programs, workshops, and training with financial, health, and religious organizations focused on legacy principles and practices. She has seven grandchildren. Her home is Minneapolis, Minn.