Written In response to topic: Why my Siblings Don’t Help me with Elder Care (on AgingCare

I’ve spoken on this topic and on this list before – yes it is a huge topic. I was reading about African value system yesterday, written by the late Steven Biko – about how people worked to benefit the community, tnot individuals – because a community that grows, brings up all members. But a single rich person does not bring up a whole community. (article on Biko and ethics)

I appreciated this under-recognized ethical system – for when I took responsibility for my youngest brother’s entry into adult life, I knew I needed help, far from family, and without family of my own, I found professional programs very limited – and placed him in small rural towns where I found community places that would support him just by being there.

I learned to look to community resources around him, after feeling the benefit of active inclusion and sharing in community when I drove a school bus during Boston Desegregation or “Busing”. It took me a while to get used to a different set of cultural expectations but once I did, I pursued similar study throughout my life, and found that I valued the openness of communication, where all voices contributed to the solution of problems, with familiar patterns that structured entry to participation, so that all parties had some experience in helping to guide group activities.

Driving Black students to white neighborhoods in Busing, I found myself challenged by my students if I acted indifferent to their feelings, “Cassie, that was ‘cold’!” I found in that remark, reason to explore my own beliefs and wonder about alternatives. I found many other instances where respect, attention and response were expected – not always affirmative response, but definitely response, signaling participation in a conversation within the group on the bus. They educated me, and I also educated them in some of the value of my peaceful Canadian responses.

I relate to your share above, Moxy – “unloved” by siblings – painful, and something that takes time to cope with. That was much of my experience in my fragmented home, and it took me a long time to sort out the interwoven issues around my relationships to my family – but once I saw disabled brother’s vulnerability to predators of many kinds, at prompt risk if I did not stand close to him – I did stand there and contributed much of my working energy to efforts to communicate, study, show up, all learning how to help, coach, find support and then find ways to tie the supporters together, with the goal of getting him past the stage of youthful rebellion, and learn how to learn from others and be helped.

I kept in touch with my family in other aspects – biding my time after disagreements, and I hated their pronouncements of interpretation of my character which blamed my personality or lacking social skills for the amount of difficulty I found in working with people – they had no idea, from their total distance, of the impact of fragmentation in helping services, how that makes them very ineffective in any support outside their institutions (and also not much help at times, within them.) They need to be helped to notice changes and target care. Business and professional services bring an important consistency and money to research details, but they cannot claim any moral right to lead, for they are both part of the fragmented perspectives, which look at life in detail within their spheres, and delegate all the rest, with varied levels of indifference – which ends up destabilizing, demoralizing and angering hard working people outside of business.

With my own siblings, I came a long way over the years – my one older sister and I started by making up after I initiated adult visits across the miles. Later, efforts to meet my brothers where they felt most comfortable, and I am grateful for supports they give. I’m now 73, and older brother who manages the money, is 80. He has learned that I take no direction from him, for I was the one who stayed close enough to see and find what was needed for the youngest disabled one. He took over money management after death of oldest brother, so he arrived after all my work had happened.

I’ve learned to get help or advice from him, and we have a basic arrangement for money – so I tend to relax, until i hear him object to me mentioning my struggle to deal with the cumulative cost to my own economic and physical advancement in life (I’m buried in clutter, and work to reduce and eliminate it – but that job in itself keeps me from doing the writing or pursuit of other career, for my own retirement income – and time to build on my interests, not disabled brother’s.

Problem is, brothers have learned a formula, too often repeated in our countries here, that praise individual responsibility, and interpret any other version of life needs and care, as secondary to employment and jobs and investment money planning, and they think they can apply their wisdom learned in their business relationships to others.

Fact is, there are times of life where everyone is vulnerable, areas where some need special education to remedy gaps, and someone stable, not flying all around the world – to watch over them, and see what’s needed. That’s where the alternative ethic comes in, I think – if everyone enjoyed community, and did our best to show up and contribute to ongoing activities, we can find help and resources all around us – not from the limited venues offered in our system so based on ideals for people only in the workplace and of working ages.

Cassie Quinlan

Different cultural styles need attention

I wrote my first draft of this post today:

Hi all on this Diversity site, it is good to have places where people are gathering voices and comments. While I do not think that “talk” alone solves longstanding issues – talk that informs each other across our various perceptions and life experiences, can only add information after we have grow up for so long, sheltered from one another in different enclaves. The “solution” of “privacy” has fostered an overly rigid use of barriers and walls to stay with like-minded people – we now emerge thank goodness, into better views of each other, and all of us have much more to learn than we realized.

I’m white, Canadian immigrant,now in early 70s, I drove a bus in Boston Desegregation from 1976 to 1985. My new exposure as I was immersed in African American culture, was enacted very well by the children I drove. The customs impressed me so much, I’ve spent the rest of my life following, studying, learning, being immersed.

One contrast I will make, that is culturally relevant to the dissension today: the contrast between Irish expectations of what “order” looks like, compared to African.

Confusion over same words but different concepts even at this day and age, is not surprising – for if people never speak up and talk, they are not corrected, nobody learns. The same words imply different loyalties and concepts to different people based on experiences.

Growing a small Irish girl, I was terrified to ever speak up. I learned the code, sit in silence and let the charming men or the nuns or a very few bolder girls, do the leading.  If I did speak up, I was often mocked, by others, led by guys, who were not all malicious – but they thought that cracking jokes about inexperienced self expression, was fair game in groups.

On the outside, I looked competent, optional ties to higher class, I cracked jokes myself.  I was good in business.  But on the inside I had grown up with two disabled siblings, in a struggling home where charming older brothers were favored and given the role of helping an overwhelmed, often crying mother.

Irish culture does not have a history of having men and women collaborate and work together. Raising children was not seen as parents’ shared job, but the role of decision making about moral behavior was left to the distant Catholic Church – a player among other players to southern hemisphere neighbors, but across years and miles of distance and climate and culture, the church was disempowering (at best) to Irish women – left alone taking care of many children alone in homes insulated from others and community, as well as from the cold weather.

The Irish who made money in construction in Montreal, found themselves able to “pass” as British, since they were the same color, shared some history and all spoke English.

But the Irish customs of charm and energy, “winging it” were also legendary, and in my family at least, no parents had gone to university.  So my upbringing of silence and lack of university preparation, and habits of “winging it”, left me often bypassed, and I eventually dropped out.

I have learned in my adult travels, cultures may call ourselves American, but we organize our home and address conflicts, often teach our young – in ways that retain old values – we retain them out of a loyalty, among other reasons, especially if isolated from other groups.

When I met a Black Gospel Choir on one of my bus routes, I attended practice sessions at their invitation.  One day found myself crying uncontrollably, as I listened to the new tryouts for solo roles in upcoming hymns.

With my limited but positive exposure to African based music, enjoyed even in Canada as I grew up, I expected the Black college girls who wanted to try – I expected them to sing like potential Aretha Franklins.

But instead, I heard the shaky voice of a new tryout, her tone cracking as she tried to raise her voice, shakily hampered by her nervousness, But then the response which brought my tears:  the response of Black young women around her: “S’all right. Take your time… ‘s all right.”

This was the opposite from the reactions I had heard in my own life and that I heard with sadness at times on other uses when I drove Irish kids. In that setting, if a female tried to sing but was not quite experienced, her voice cracking was met with: “Shaddup!!  You can’t sing! Sit down! Go back to the drawing board.”

I watched this happen from my drivers seat, and watched the end of music confidence, resulting on only songs of 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall – being sanctioned to share.  And that’s a hard one to take, on a bus ride, as we get down past 77 bottles of beer on the wall….  etc.

This time, in the Gospel Choir practice, I heard something different.  It wasn’t silence, I’ve heard that too. These young women singers spoke right up:  “S’all right. Take your time.. S’all right….”   Hearing the welcoming, soothing Black voices, encouraging a nervous singer,  I cried deeply in sadness at how many times I was afraid to try to lead, and when I was met with mockery, jokes and shut downs at home and in my life, I took them to heart and grew into adulthood repeatedly terrified to ever try to lead out loud.

With the alternative response in the Black Choir who learned to sing by listening , taught to listen to the whole and how their voices sounded and meshed together, taught by repetitions without written music notes.

Here,  it took only a few moments before the new singer tryout girl, hit a sound note, clearly. “The young Black supporting women were back immediately,  jumping in to celebrate the improved accuracy. “THERE you go!  Now you’re gettin it. You go, girl, you’re doing fine.”

It took less than 5 minutes, in this informal but regularly practiced set of rituals, to transform a frightened, self conscious young woman, into a hopeful, confidence gaining person, eager to practice and learn, a growing star, who would in fact, bring something related to what Aretha Franklin did bring.

We in the Western world have assumed that our books and our machines have made us the most important and fair minded people in the world.

But when we start with a focus on books and laws, we miss the experience of looking more closely at struggling individuals right beside us.   So we stay silent, do not speak up, promptly, or make nervous jokes, or give specific instructions when we notice someone afraid. We have delegated the field of “help” to church or therapists.

“Tribal” needs to be re-visited, and tied a bit more often to “villages” – stable places where adults and older siblings of different genders and ages encourage those caring for the fragile, the young and the old, instead of sending them off to institutions to be visited when we have time.

I’ve never shared the above example in public, but the comments in Milwaukee show me there is space for new conversations, about the kind of informal structures that single mothers yes – African women in their leadership roles, created together to encourage frightened children, encourage them to speak up, practice, take turns leading, so they can get experience as alert helpers.

Instead of the police assuming that multiple responses from Black youth are totally oppositional, it could help them to learn that being encouraged to speak up, follow rituals that allow shared leadership in turn, like jazz – is part of this culture, a warm part that many in White groups flock to benefit from.  Allowing a bit more time to pause, consider words said, and then say, I can’t follow this right now, or I have to take you in, move over there, please, a little more curiosity, not the assumption that all opposition is personal, and  not the quick reaction to shoot first, question later.

On my buses of Black teens, I found help, not opposition, among the children.  I found help as I showed them I was curious, friendly willing to learn and share my impressions, be real, and spend less energy trying to prove my goodwill, more energy looking to try to understand their speech.

Some other white drivers arrived with attitudes freely expressed to other whites, attitudes that “they are all thugs, animals….”

While they learned impressions from some experiences, they were more limited in view than they realized.  And those  drivers had very different experiences on their school busses, from the ones I had.  My kids cooperated, brought me their peer struggles, and called me “the Judge” because they saw that I listened and tried to be fair.

Some of our understanding needs to grow, to recognize that our efforts to make people just like us, ignore the beauty and potential they developed before they met us.  Centuries of poor understanding of different areas of strength and different needs, can now come together with a bit more flexibility, humor, willingness to treat children, Black teens included, as children.

We all have much to learn, bring many efforts and struggles, and sometimes poor choices, but those need help not vengeance, and a one size fits all institutional system of rigid laws and long punishments helps no one.

Mothers of the Movement

Those women last night, those women – I speak with admiration and appreciation.  The Black Mothers of young people killed in violence, together brought the spark of reality across generations and experience, to a convention process that in the past, has not always known how to include all.

This time, these mothers – brought, words and presence that were personal and present.  They trusted all of us, and shared their voices, across groups normally isolated from each other.

“You don’t stop being a mother when your child dies.”

I’m so grateful for the collaboration evident in how this convention was organized, which brought to shared focus, the experience of seeing how nurturing and any meaningful effort is focused through a lifetime, not just a few active working years, nor simply years of childhood, but even after death, one”s mothering is one’s identity.

This 2016 Democratic Convention brought Blacks and Whites together, through a focus of a women’s perspective.

Efforts themselves matter, efforts over time.

Last night’s recounting by Bill Clinton, backed up by the years of video clips that showed Hilary’s persistent efforts to engage and try to help bring actions and resolve conflicts, year after year, around the world, across the country, through ups and downs – those stories told the truth.

Fashionable negative and flip phrases of critics that shouted “lock her (or anyone) up” are sound bites that are intentionally harmful without any interest in studying the whole picture, nor the impact of knee jerk choices of proposed punishment.

The most insulting suggestions are used to represent strength or degree of anger or frustration from people who pay no attention to the degree of harm their words suggest,  Using concepts learned from fragmented and self-contained stories, they proscribe the greatest punishments they can imagine.

Our society needs to make time to look at the damage caused by such widely repeated, but clearly incomplete truths, viewed through our mechanical processes of professionalism, available multiple times a day through sound bites passed along mechanically and repeated around the world in an instant.

We need to stop and look at damage done, not just assume that all expressed anger is equally harmless.  If there is risk of damage to another, we should hold back.  Some anger is so prompt and vitriolic, it does instant damage to new ideas, new growth, new voices entering a global communication process – instantly condemning the unfamiliar, without understanding its value.

This Convention brought a shared awareness of the value of efforts, and the shame of throwing them under the bus, because of quick phrases and assumptions learned from too great a distance.

Nurture What’s There: Where to Start in Culture and Race Relations

Hug more, smile more, greet all others in every gathering.  Say hello and goodbye, explicitly and with good cheer, even if it is just a wave.

In our analytical focus on objectivity, as we rush to identify problems to fix,  to use cleverness to devise solutions, uncover glitches and blocks to progress –  we under-emphasize the wondrous and thrilling sparkles we receive, every time we foray into worlds of others, for the exchange of different humans is the fun that encourages growth.

It’s not about politeness, or political correctness, it’s about showing in some way that others can see or hear, that we’re grateful, that we have been touched, cheered, inspired or even amused by gifts that others have devised in different cultures and histories as well as our own.   We make it easier to work together,  when we show when we find delight in a new word or approach, in the addition of movement awareness, or the value of patience.

The challenge of designing dynamic, living, communicating,  organizing and growing systems is complicated.  But everyone, high or low, brings some gift.

Dealing with so much complexity together, is easier when people show how or when we are impressed and appreciative – even briefly,  but clearly.  An open hug, a smile, a thumbs up.  For in all the changes in this century, and all the analysis and rush, our criticism may be clear, while our appreciation is not obvious to others, many will misunderstand, without our signal.

Often, we are surrounded by plenty of pain, anger, sadness, loss, fear.  Many great ideas emerge, about how things should have been or should now be improved.  Many mistakes have been made, some with vast consequences.

But building courage and time to work on learning new solutions, involves a day-to-day process.  We learn as we go and as we grow – in different ways, with different memories, understandings, different energy levels, and patterns of communicating – in English or other languages.  Different generations witness different events, as society has changed, with some changes much more disruptive or rapid, or more openly visible than others.

We  need all our ways to meditate, sing, dance, write or pray, to  integrate and sift, and appreciate new understandings and opportunities as time evolves.

More than solutions, however needed, we need and value each other’s company,  along the road.


Cross Cultural Impact on Rehabilitation