58 Slices
Medium 9781576751039

Chapter 5 values—where do I get connected?

Leider, Richard J. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

My taxi driver looks exhausted. I have to tap on the window three times to get his attention before he opens the door for me. Coming around to take my bags, he shakes his head and squints, clearing cobwebs from his brain. When he slides back into the driver’s seat, I can see in the rear-view mirror how red and watery his eyes are.

“Where to?” he mumbles in a heavy accent made heavier by a thick sleepy tongue.

“Home,” I say, leaning back into the seat, but—somewhat concerned about my driver—not quite relaxing. For one thing, it makes me nervous to see his eyelids droop as I give him directions to my house.

“Ah, home,” says the driver wistfully, as he merges into traffic. “Very nice. I haven’t been to my home in five years.”

Figuring that he’ll be more likely to stay awake if he’s talking, I take the opportunity to engage him in conversation.

“Really? Where’s home?”

“Far away,” he tells me. “Far, far away.”

A few moments pass. I can’t tell if my driver is remembering his country or nodding off. I try to keep the conversational ball rolling.

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Medium 9781576754566

Chapter 4: Why Purpose is Good Medicine

Leider, Richard J. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub


One should not search for an abstract meaning of life. Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life to carry out a concrete assignment which demands fulfillment.

Viktor Frankl

On a walking safari in Africa, you walk on well-worn century-old trails, through savannahs and fields of tall grass, across fast-moving streams on slippery fallen logs, and over tree-covered plains teeming with wildlife of all sizes. And that’s what we’ve been doing all morning.

Our group has covered half a dozen miles since breakfast in a variety of terrains. We have seen thousands of birds and animals of all sizes. We have experienced mist and rain and now, around noon, sun that beats down fiercely from overhead. In short, it has been a perfect day for a hike and we are all, though tiring, totally into it and completely up for more of the same this afternoon.

But just as we begin to set a course through the low acacia trees that mark our path to our afternoon’s destination, Daudi points out a sight that changes our plans for the day.

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Medium 9781576754566

Chapter 2: How to Die Happy

Leider, Richard J. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub


Believe that each new day that dawns will be the last for you: Then each unexpected hour shall come to you as a delightful gift.


Our group of 14 has risen at dawn in the Nou Forest, our tents scattered through a thickly wooded campsite 7500 feet high in the hills above the Rift Valley in northern Tanzania. We have taken a long and invigorating hike through the forest and have spied numerous exotic birds and animals and have even, for a while, tracked an elephant through the surrounding hills and valleys. We have been guided by a trio of men from the local Iraqw tribe, an agrarian people whose tidy farms, nestled on the steep hillsides all around us, we have admired yesterday on our journey here. These men, in their thirties and forties, while not yet official elders in their communities, have begun to assume greater authority among their people. Certainly, the competence and confidence with which they guide us speaks volumes about their readiness to take on full leadership roles.

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Medium 9781576752975

Chapter 2: The Flame of Community: Refinding Our Place

Leider, Richard J. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

New Elder
Ruth Shapiro

When Dave’s dad died,his mom,Ruth,who had lived in the same house in Pittsburgh for over 30 years,decided it was time to move. This isn’t an uncommon reaction; major life changes like the death of a spouse often impel us to make changes in our living situation. What was somewhat unusual about Ruth’s decision was that she didn’t consider heading off to Florida or Arizona or any of the other “elder ghettos”as she calls them. Instead,she thought about what makes a place “home”for her. It certainly wasn’t warm weather or an “active elder lifestyle.”Rather,what she deemed important was family and independence. Also, having had to take care of her aging mother by long distance, Ruth was determined not to put her own kids into that same situation. When her own mom was in the last years of her life,Ruth was constantly shuttling between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati,where her mother lived.“I just didn’t want to put you and your sister through that,”she tells Dave.“It was all so unnecessary. The problem is,you know,that people are afraid to admit the obvious—that they’re going to die—and so don’t make the necessary preparations. For me,the solution was easy; since neither you nor your sister has any intention of returning to your childhood home,then I would come to you. If Mohammed won’t come to the mountain and all that.”

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Medium 9781609949327

Chapter 5 Connect—Who’s There for You?

Leider, Richard J. Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Throughout life, community is important. In this new phase of life creating a sense of community is essential. It’s the expression of connection.

It’s so self-evident that most of the time we take it for granted: humans are social animals. It’s in our DNA—literally. We’ve survived and evolved because of our innate capacity and need to connect with our fellow human beings. We’re not meant to live solitary lives. Talking, listening, touching, and relating are hardwired into what it means to be human. Connecting creates a sense of well-being for all of us in every phase of life. We need to depend on one another for all kinds of things, from specific lessons that teach us how to do something better to more general emotional support in dealing with the triggers that are always a part of life.

But here’s what happens to community and connections over time: they tend to fray. Think about it.

In the early phases of adulthood, we often make connections and form communities around two spheres: family and work. It’s a common experience for many people who have children: the children become the reason for community and connections. The friends you make, the associations you join, the school games or performances you attend, all derive from your children and their interests and development. That’s a powerful connection, one that brings people together around a shared commitment to their families. Your friends are the parents of your children’s friends.

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