In the Kingdoms of Celebration, each kingdom has a collective of people known as “The Elders”. They are the voice of experience, the personification of wisdom and the whisperers in the ears of the kingdoms’ leaders. The Elders always speak in rhyme, which makes their dialogue distinctive in the book:
Darker grow the purple clouds,
Sharply stings the falling rain;
Surely bees and butterflies
Notice when the seasons change.
There was one trap that I fell into with my representation of the Elders in the first draft of what felt like a complete story. They had somehow become a very negative voice. They worried, chided the king to make decisions and somehow became the spirit of pessimism in the story that relates the triumph of the hopeful.
As I re-read the story and thought about the older people, the Elders, in my life, I realised that I was misrepresenting my own experience.
Though the skies may seem so bleak,
People listen when you speak
With boldness and a gentle tone –
Let seeds of wrath be never sown.
In addition to my parents, wider family and teachers, I was blessed to have various older men and women especially in church that would constantly validate my ambitions and encourage me to continue on a steady path. Many did not come from a place of academic achievement, as they were from a time when access to education was still a privilege and not as pervasive as it is now in Barbados. Nevertheless, they were wise. They understood the importance of friendship, family and fun in correct measure. They encouraged and prayed with confidence that some would misinterpret as simple-mindedness or desperation. They gave generously and earnestly without maintaining records of emotional or economic recompense. They are so many people who come to my mind that changed my life through straightforward words and gestures. I honour them.
It is these memories that I now load into my frontal lobe as I revisit the text that embodies the character of the Elders. They are significant in the Kingdoms of Celebration as they are in our reality.
Our society needs our Elders. We too easily dismiss them and focus on developing the next generation without their input, falling for the deception of irrelevance. Yes, the children and youth hold the pens that will write on future’s pages, but these pens will only blot and punch holes if not placed on a solid surface. (Ok, think I got a bit carried away with that analogy, but I gave it a go). Thank you to the Elders who have gone on before and those who are still among us, still reinforcing, validating, praying and encouraging.
Memories of laughter and memories of songs
Are gifts that remain when our loved ones are gone.
Gone to the place where their songs were conceived and
Joy is eternal for them who believe.