As part of my commitment to promoting the awareness of positive psychology, I have been providing programs in the community with the goal of sharing inspiration and empowerment with people from diverse backgrounds. As I do these, I share and am energized by the following quote:
"Become friends with people who aren’t your age. Hang out with people whose first language isn’t the same as yours. Get to know someone who doesn’t come from your social class. This is how you see the world. This is how you grow." ~ Author Unknown
This morning I had the honor and pleasure of speaking to a dozen women who have a discussion group, formerly self-proclaimed as the "Mini Think Tank" because they focused on intellectual exploration. The hostess, a recent widow, invited me to do a talk on positive psychology and resilience. She explained to me that though her background is in science, members initially focused on the arts, and as the group has experienced losses of old members and the joining of new, their programs have become more diverse.
The guests range in age from 76 to 99 and have been meeting for over 30 years to explore and share their interests. They get together the fourth Thursday of every month and take turns hosting. The hostess is in charge of providing a program or speaker, usually in her home, and "clearing off the dining room table to put some food out". Today's offerings were fresh popovers and jam, along with perfectly square little banana bread and cream cheese sandwiches.
Over the last few days as I prepared the material I chose to share with them, I found myself intimidated in a most reverent way. I knew I would be the youngster in the room (relatively rare these days) and wondered if I really had anything much to offer. I routinely talk about strengths, flourishing, mindfulness, listening, deceptive brain messages, cultivating healthy habits, exercise, rest, nutrition, and general self-care. I cover the five pillars of well-being: positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishment. With all their years of life experience, how could any of this be news to them?
As the women came in, they would sit together, one on one, knee to knee, and check in to see how the other was doing. I noticed that when one spoke, the other or others listened, mindfully and attentively. They talked about the changes, like upcoming moves, settlement of estates, new pets, blossoming bulbs, and family. If one needed assistance, another was right there to provide it. As each arrived, our hostess introduced her to me with heartfelt admiration and a little history.
Once everyone had enjoyed refreshments, I began my program as I always do, with three deep breaths, to center, to set an intention, and to express gratitude. My intention was to provide them with something new and useful. My gratitude was for all I had learned from them already, as they flourished before my eyes, and for the friends I share similar relationships with.
As I spoke, these women were engaged, took notes, offered personal experience, and honored every word. They graciously thanked me and said how helpful and interesting my presentation was. One lively nonogenarian even started singing Accentuate the Positive, which let to further discussion about focus on strengths to improve perceived weaknesses.
"Become friends with people who aren’t your age. Hang out with people whose first language isn’t the same as yours. Get to know someone who doesn’t come from your social class. This is how you see the world. This is how you grow." I now graciously thank THEM for giving ME this opportunity to grow a little more -- and a glimpse into how my future can be if I practice what I preach.