Relocation as a Transformational Experience

RelocationHow many times have you moved in your adult life? There is a roughly 50-50 chance that if you are middle aged or above, you do not live in the state in which you were born. Slightly more than one half of the population between 25 and 55 were born in their current state of residence. (Source: 2010 American Community Survey, U.S. Census Bureau) Have you thought of relocation as a transformational experience? One that you can maximize in its positive effect in your life?

There are many reasons that people relocate to different states and parts of the country: a job transfer, military assignment, a more desirable location to raise a family, etc. As we get into our fifties and beyond, more and more moves are to be near children, grandchildren, or parents. Or perhaps you would like to be in a more pleasing climate or just to have a major change of setting.

In this process, we all bring with us mindsets, lenses and attitudes toward our new locations – which greatly affect our experiences. If you move from city to suburbs, city to country, suburb to city – whatever the type of community – there are differences that we anticipate and things that may surprise us. If the move is to a different state, even to another part of the country, there can be cultural differences of various kinds, political climate changes and more.

When we relocate, we have the opportunity to allow and invite the experience to widen our perspectives and our future in profound ways. It may even transform us in ways we could not have anticipated.

The key to maximizing the positive effect of this experience is to approach the move with a sense of adventure and discovery. Although we may have chosen our new location with certain criteria in mind (climate, proximity to family, return to where we lived as a child, etc.), there are always aspects of the location that we will only discover once we are there. There will be a tension between creating a new comfort zone and being intentionally open to the nuances of the rhythm, norms, expectations and history of the new area.

At first, you will focus on getting a grasp of geography, transportation options, locations of stores, etc. to reestablish daily routines. Beyond that, I have experienced a unique time in the first months and years in a new location when I am most open to discovery and intentionally seek to understand the area in which I am. This is a time before everything becomes the new routine, the new normal – when it is so easy to go into autopilot.

If you are a photographer as I am, this is a prime time to take photos of things and places that are new, which often raises questions I want to explore. For example, early in my time in Nashville, I visited the oldest cemetery in the city where the moss and algae-covered old tombstones revealed peaks into the history of slavery and other unique parts of Nashville’s history. This ignited my curiosity and stimulated other visits, reading, and reflection on the history of the south and what it means today. As time went on, I became aware of how this area played a unique part in the civil rights era of the 1950s and 1960s. All of that profoundly affected my understanding of our history, since I had previously only lived in the north. It also provided insight into how that affects current attitudes and politics.

I have found that as a “new” person with a sense of exploration, I have discovered things that people who have lived in a location longer are not aware of. It is so easy to settle into a small geographic area and create a cocoon of sorts that we lose the opportunity to continually be stretched and challenged to grow. If you are considering or have recently relocated, try adopting this attitude and outlook.

You can get some of the benefits of relocation, and have some fun too, by pretending you are new in your location and look at things from that standpoint. Many of us have experienced a bit of this when we have out of town guests and are showing them around. We become aware of activities and places that we don’t ordinarily enjoy. Be intentional about exploring and reflecting on things that will broaden your thinking and ignite your curiosity to learn more or get involved.  An even simpler step is to do more walking or biking if you ordinarily drive a car most places. Slowing down your pace and intentionally paying attention can be illuminating.

By intentionally focusing on discovery and reflection, we can broaden our own understandings of history and our own place in it as well as what that means for what is happening today and in the future. It may inspire us to embark on formal or informal study on something we have discovered and explored. It may move us to get involved in an activity or cause. It may cause us to make different choices about specifically where we live and the groups and organizations with whom we affiliate. It can transform our experiences, outlook and indeed our future.

Looking Back: Impact of Experiences at Age 20

Listening Witness Team 1966

It is mid-summer in Nashville, TN.  It is hot and humid and has been since the beginning of May.  There have only been a handful of days since then with a high temperature below 90 degrees.  I remember another hot summer when I was almost 20 years old, living for 3 months with a group of 5 other college students in Chicago, Illinois and how the experiences of that summer transformed my thinking and my life.

I thought about that today after finding an article I wrote after that summer of 1966 that was published in my hometown church newsletter.  In the article to the people in that Lutheran Church in Stoughton, Wisconsin where I grew up, I tried to express the impact of that astounding experience in my life.  What is most striking to me as I read it is how it speaks to our realities in 2018 far more than I would have expected.  52 years later and the issues are sadly similar, even if the specifics have changed somewhat.  Here is what I wrote (I have not changed the language – this was considered proper usage in 1966):

FROM OUR YOUTH

Listening, really listening to other people, is hard work. Because of the multitude of sounds constantly pounding against our ear drums, we have all but lost the ability to really hear and understand what people are trying to tell us. This includes us in the church who have, especially in the urban areas, failed to listen to the needs, wants, loves, and fears which people are crying out to us.

 

In an attempt to correct this, the Youth Department of the ALC (American Lutheran Church) sends Listening Witness teams of between four and six ALC college students into various congregations for the summer to learn to listen and begin to teach members of the host congregation to make listening a way of life so that they can be part of a true servant church.

 

This past summer I and five other Luther College students were in a congregation on the southwest side of Chicago. We were an integrated team situated in an all-white, lower-middle class neighborhood and congregation, one block from the Negro neighborhood.

 

Although we often found it easier to see things that were taken for granted by the congregation, we also had to guard against fast misjudgments and rejecting people and ideas because they were different from our own before we understood the reasons behind them.

 

We encountered much blind prejudice, within and outside of the church. We were told that ‘nice’ girls would not be part of such an integrated team and it wasn’t ‘proper’ for us to walk down the street with Negro boys. We had to change residences because the Negro member of the team walked us to the house, and the residents feared their daughter’s reputation would be ruined. Several boys refused to take part in a communion service after our Negro team member did, although they treated him as a buddy otherwise.

 

As a result of the summer, I have a much clearer picture of what the Church of Christ is and what it can and should be today. If we learn to listen and serve and love all as the Lord of the Church did, that Church can create a brotherhood which glories in human diversity. If we remain self-centered, cling blindly to tradition, build barriers between people, and ignore individual humans by stereotyping groups, we will aid and encourage hate, discrimination, fear and everything contrary to the Gospel of love we claim to believe in.

 

This applies here in Stoughton as well as in Chicago or any large city – being a Listening Witness must be a Christian’s way of life. We must listen to what is said, not what we want to hear or think should be said, and then witness to the situation in Christian love, not self-righteous judgment.

 

— Carol Brusegar  ( From The Ambassador newsletter of Christ Lutheran Church, Stoughton, Wisconsin, December 1966)

 

What have the milestone experiences been in your life? You may find some treasure in them!

 

In 1966, a number of significant things occurred in the civil rights movement. A chapter of this book is specifically about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “going north” and specifically the events in Chicago that year.
The King Years: Historic Moments in the Civil Rights Movement

 

TRANSFORMATION THROUGH STRUCTURED LEARNING AND LIVE EVENTS

In a world that continues to change at a rapid pace, we all need to keep learning in all areas of our lives. That continual learning can be stimulating and refreshing, and it can become tiresome at points. Have you ever just wished things could plateau for a short time so we could just BE? I have. Sometimes a break is good. But as we look forward into the next part of our lives after age 50, transformation through structured learning can be powerful.

We all have particular attitudes and proclivities toward learning. I describe myself as a lifelong learner. I have always read a lot of books and magazines. Probably until the age of 50, I mostly consumed non-fiction of various kinds. Since then I have read both fiction and non-fiction. In addition, my entire adult life has been molded and shaped by a variety of structured learning experiences. Over time that has resulted in transformation of many aspects of life. After two years of college immediately following high school, I took lots of informal classes and also designed and completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Urban Liberal Studies, graduating a year before my daughter completed high school and started college.

I have engaged in a variety of workshops, community education classes, and in the past 15 or so years, online classes and webinars. It is truly amazing what is available to us electronically, a lot of it free of charge and much at a reasonable cost. Many people complete degree programs entirely online.

A combination of virtual and in-person learning is ideal. The online tools that offer face to face interaction are one step beyond listening to content or even webinars with primarily one-way communication. These options include Skype, Facebook Live, Zoom and others.

In-person learning like workshops, live events, conferences, conventions, etc. give the added benefits of interaction with presenters/teachers and with other participants. This is helpful immediately as well as over time if you cultivate relationships beyond the time you are physically together. You can get support and feedback from some of your new circle on shared interests or experiences. This is particularly true if the topic of the event you attended was on a shared topic related to personal development. The perspectives of people with whom you connected around the topic can be invaluable as you continue to make use of what you learned in your life. Such relationships can be transformative in very personal and profound ways.

If the topic of the live event was more business-related, you may have connected with people who in some way can help you enhance your business. For example, if you have or are developing an online or even an offline business, you may have met people with whom you can share prospects for each of your products or services. You can keep in touch and provide support as you each are applying what you learned to your business ventures. Sometimes one of you will think of an idea for the other that might benefit their business.

Transforming our lives after 50 into a time of discovery, joy and contribution is an exciting prospect. Structured and in person learning can be an important tool and process along the way.

 

Transforming Your Life With New Experiences, Part 2

razor wire

 

NOTE: In an earlier post, Transforming Your Life With New Experiences, I wrote about a particular experience in prison ministry with the Timothy’s Gift program. This post is about a more recent visit, this time to Arkansas prisons. This is a Christian ministry and that is reflected in the post.

REFLECTIONS ON THE TIMOTHY’S GIFT HOLY WEEK TOUR, MARCH 2018

During Holy Week, 2018, Timothy’s Gift had its spring tour with the theme “You’ve Got a Friend.” We observed those days leading up to Easter not with traditional church services on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday or Holy Saturday. Rather, we had 8 services/programs in 6 Arkansas prisons.

Our extraordinary team of 17 including musicians, speakers and support folks brought a 4-fold message – You are Loved, You Have Great Worth, God is With You, and You Are Not Forgotten. We communicated those messages through music (secular and fun, spiritual, and Christian), spoken messages, and other exercises and experiences. By weaving together these elements, we provided multiple ways to touch those who come to the program.

We had a Maundy Thursday experience as part of each service. As Jesus shared the bread and wine with his disciples on that day, we share the bread and juice with the inmates – looking directly into their eyes and speaking the words of the love of God. All of the team members participated in the serving of the communion at least once so they had that experience, which is truly profound.

And we had Good Friday during each service as the message spoke to the crucifixion: God in Jesus experiencing the worst that human life provides and demonstrating that God has always been with us and will always be with us. We reminded them that one thief also crucified that day spoke “remember me” – and that they too are remembered.

The person-to-person interaction was especially precious as we greeted people with handshakes and hugs as they entered and left, had conversations which included their stories, heard requests to pray for individuals, and gave encouragement. Often there were tears.

One of the 8 services was in a women’s facility; and as always, the women were more emotional and participatory than the men. As they were moved out quickly to get back to their dorm for count, right after communion and before the final words could be said or last 2 songs sung, every woman was crying in response to what they had just experienced. Several were pregnant and seemed particularly moved.

Each location had its own uniqueness, due to the level of security, the type of units participating, the chaplain’s style and focus, and the warden’s overall leadership. Overall, the prison officers and chaplains were friendly and helpful – though a few started out differently. One officer who had not been fully informed about what would be required of him for us to do our two programs in two parts of the facility started out resentful. But by the end, he was complimentary and said “God bless you all” with a warm smile. We had many affirmative responses from other officers as well.

At one location where we had two separate services, the prison’s excellent praise choir and band performed as the inmates came in and left. Before the inmates began arriving, our instrumentalists and theirs played together and shared music. This added a whole new dimension to the gathering.

In our last prison, the location of the chapel required us to walk through a corridor lined with inmate barracks on either side. Getting glimpses of the rows and rows of cots, a couple of feet from each other, with men sitting and standing in those large rooms was sobering and sad. As we trouped through the corridor – 17 people with cases of sound equipment, instruments, music stands, communion supplies and more – many stared, some waved; more waved if we first waved. One can only imagine the range of thoughts and attitudes about our group as we entered. We had to walk back after set-up to get to the canteen area, and then back through to the chapel for the program. And then at the end, back to the entrance with all of our gear again. It was a strange experience each time, knowing there were diverse attitudes toward us and wanting to not seem either aloof, or afraid, or naively cheerful.

At the end of every service, each person who attended was given a survey to return and invited to write to us. After just a week after the first visits, dozens of letters have already arrived. We will be reading them and responding to as many as we can.

Each of the institutions wants a return visit from Timothy’s Gift. The inmates all seemed eager for us to come back. And every team member who went – 7 of them for the first time – seem eager to do it again. It is truly a transformative experience each time we are able to participate. It is a unique and powerful way to live out and share the love of God with others.

This is an example of an experience that transforms all involved.  How can you have such experiences?

For more information on this ministry, go to www.timothysgift.com

Patterns and Milestone Experiences That Transform

Experiences TransformOne of the joys of getting older – let’s say 50 and beyond – is that we can look back and see patterns and milestones in our lives. Seeing the patterns can be instructive and helpful in many ways. In early mid-life, most of us experience the intensity of jobs/careers, community involvement, family relationships to nurture and support – and more. As we move into a different phase of life, we can take time to do this.  Experiences transform, and reflecting on them can be part of transforming your life after 50.

I will share some of my experience with this kind of reflection.

Some time ago, I had the opportunity to be one of several presenters who shared personal stories with a group from my church. It was a wonderful opportunity to look back and identify some patterns in my life. One of them was “expanding horizons” and I also identified milestone experiences that had shifted my life in new directions. Each of us can likely identify ways in which our horizons expanded and how that impacted us.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. captured the essence of that by saying, “”A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.”

I found it quite enjoyable to look at that pattern as if I were floating high above, getting the view from the drone, if you will. In my case, I saw an image of concentric circles and that pattern of expanding horizons. I could recognize experiences that launched me from one circle into another, and later into another as the years passed. The changes were more than geographic and included mental, spiritual, emotional and psychological expansions.

The geographic concentric circles started from growing up in a small town in Minnesota, to college in two other midwestern towns, to a summer in core city Chicago, Illinois to much of my adult life in inner city Minneapolis, Minnesota to a couple of years in suburban Orange County, California to the past eight years in Nashville, Tennessee. I can see concentric circles of relationship with a wider diversity of people and of awareness of regional and cultural differences.

In addition to these overlaid concentric circles, I can identify milestone experiences that changed the direction of my life in different ways. The first dramatic milestone was the summer spent in Chicago when I was 19 years old. It was a city immersion program sponsored by the American Lutheran Church in several cities around the country, with our team of six people coming from a small college in Decorah, Iowa. Prior to this, I had lived in homogeneous small towns, both growing up and in my prior two years of college.

Then here we were, working full time jobs and doing neighborhood work in the rest of our time out of a city church located just on the edge of the demarcation line between a white community and a black community. Oh – did I mention: it was the summer of 1966!! Tensions were high in cities across the country as the civil rights movement was in its peak years. During that summer, Aug. 5, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was in Chicago for an open housing march through an all-white neighborhood and he was hit in the head with a brick or a rock. This was the mood of the time.

The experiences of that summer turned my attention to being involved with the social issues of the day, and gave me clarity that I wanted to be involved in things that made a difference. As a result, I left college and moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota where I would spend my years from 20 to 60 living and working in the inner city.

I encourage you to reflect on the patterns and milestones in YOUR life. It will be life-affirming and may open up some possibilities for you to explore as you are transforming your life after 50.

I encourage you to get a nice journal that you really want to write in.  I love the “Tree of Life” motif, and these are refillable, which is a plus.  Check out this version using my affiliate link: Tree of Life Writing Journal

Photography Transforms, II

Photography TransformsAs I mentioned  in Photography Transforms, the photos taken of various aspects of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s transformed the attitudes of people across the country.  Seeing images of the violence upon protesters and marchers awakened millions to realities that were outside their experiences and awareness. And more than increasing awareness, the photos motivated people from around the country to get involved in efforts to change these inequalities and violence.

A very specific example of this is included in a video about the 1963 Children’s Campaign in Birmingham, Alabama.  A multi-page spread of photographs by Charles Moore that was published in Life Magazine in mid-1963 is credited with exposing millions to what was happening in Birmingham. They stimulated marches across the country in support of the children of Birmingham and other activism toward change. Photography transforms indeed.

There is power in photography.  How have you been impacted by photos you have seen, or photos you have taken?  How could you use your photographic eye and talent to transform how you see things, and how others see things?

To explore more of this example of how photography transforms, check out a couple of resources using these links (my affiliate links):

Powerful Days: Civil Rights Photography of Charles Moore

The Story of the Birmingham Civil Rights Movement in Photographs

Three Gifts of Being Over 50

3 GiftsHave you seen more about the challenges of being over age 50 than you care to see? Have you heard so much about midlife crises that you figure you must have one, or if you didn’t that there is something wrong with you? I surely feel that way sometimes. That is one reason why this post about the three gifts of being over 50 by Donna Kastner is so refreshing and encouraging. Donna is the founder of Retirepreneur, a digital community for people who want to transition from full time employment to a part time business.

Three Gifts

Donna identifies three gifts that are setting the stage for our next adventures. They are “Remarkable Gift #1: The Happiness Surge”, “Remarkable Gift #1: More Moxie”, and “Remarkable Gift #3: A Deeper Sense of Purpose (Your Unique Why).

The Happiness Surge is verified by multiple studies:

Studies shows that our sense of wellbeing and contentedness tends to run highest in young adulthood – in our 20s and 30s – and later, as we move into our 60s. Researchers have also found this happiness curve rings true across different nations and cultures. While there are exceptions, it’s gratifying to finally have evidence that blows away the myth about aging triggering a downward spiral. We now know the exact opposite is the case for most, as our 60s become our most blissful stage yet.

This is great news, and an important counter-balance to the “all down hill from here” attitude that is promoted in society, beginning with the “over the hill” birthday cards for 50 year olds. Do they offend you as they do me?

More Moxie is described by Donna as “a rich word that depicts an uptick in energy, courage and emotional strength” now that we are over 50. Oh, yes! That’s what we have as a result of all of our life experiences. Sometimes it takes us a little time and space to recognize these attributes in ourselves.  Look for them in yourself and in your peers.  You can celebrate and find ways to use them together.

Deeper Sense of Purpose is, according to Donna, “particularly special (since) we’ve been honing it throughout our lives. Yet in our 60s we’re now blessed with more time and opportunity to activate this super power and start with the ‘why’.”

You may be saying that all sounds great, but I don’t see where that takes me. What’s the point? Donna has a challenge for us that can apply to any of us who are over 50, whereever we live and what our background and experiences are:

There’s much work to be done in this complicated world we live in, and I can’t think of a better group to tackle this assignment than the 60-something crowd. Armed with these three gifts – and others – we’re now poised to help make amazing things happen.

This is my hope and desire also: that we who have (in general) better health and a longer life expectancy than generations before us will use these three gifts and all we have learned and become to make a positive difference in the world in our years over 50! Are you up for it?

Photography Transforms

Photography TransformsExperiences of all kinds can transform us in different ways.  Photography is one of the most profound. One of my favorite photo sharing sites, Viewbug.com, displays this quote each time a user signs on:

Photography helps people to see.  — Berenice Abbott

Yes, photography has that potential, that power. Photos that focus us on a single flower, or leaf, or tree, can transform how we see life, creation, and beauty.

If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change. — Buddha

Photos of landscapes we may never see in person can broaden our views in profound ways. If I have never seen mountains or the ocean, photos of them – if I really look at them and imagine being there – can broaden my perspective and give me new desires and goals for travel.

Photos of people have their own transformative power. Close-ups provide views we can’t experience any other way. Diversity of people across the world reveal both our shared and divergent characteristics and experience. History is illuminated in the faces and bodies of human beings. Photos taken by others can make us aware of realities that we didn’t know about, or bring to life something we had heard or read.  A powerful example of this is the impact that the images transmitted across the country and the world of some of the violent episodes during the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960s.  The dogs attacking children. Crosses burning in front of homes.  A 6-year old African-American girl walking to a previously all-white school with white adults screaming at her, and national guard soldiers with guns guarding her. The bloated, beaten body of Emmett Till in his casket after being murdered in Mississippi. And many more.

Those photos awakened millions of people to realities they had only read about.  They transformed how people saw their country.  It activated enough people to act over time that changes occurred. This happened with other historical events as well, such as the Vietnam War.

Photography we view can transform in these ways and more.  The person taking the photos experiences another level of transformation. As a compulsive photographer, I find myself seeing things I want to capture in a photo all of the time.  This includes while I am driving on the freeway at 70 miles per hour! I dream of having a camera mounted on the top of my car with the ability to turn it in the direction I want and zoom in through controls on my steering wheel like I control my hands free phone.

But even if I can’t stop, I have noticed. The photographer’s eye for images counteracts the auto-pilot that so easily consumes us in our busy lives.  We see things that others may just drive by. Looking at our own photos  helps us see and reflect on our lives, our experiences and what we may want in our future.  A photo may be worth a thousand words, or a changed mind, or a dream and focus for the future. Photography has the power to transform.

Here is an example of how photography can illuminate history and broaden our perspectives.  Through the African American Lens: Double Exposure   is the first in a series, and available at Amazon.com through my affiliate link.

 

 

 

 

Transforming Your Life With New Experiences

One of the greatest gifts of our years over 50 can be having the time and flexibility to do things that we weren’t able to do when we were younger and in the thick of career building and child rearing. It may allow more travel for leisure and excitement, or learning a new skill and practicing it, or volunteering regularly to give back and help others. All of these and other activities enrich us and can be factors in transforming your life by opening up possibilities and igniting passions of which we were not aware.

I recently participated in a project that I never would have imagined I would be interested in just 10 years ago. For the 5th time, I participated in a prison ministry in another state. This is the 2nd time the trip has been for an entire week. It was a week of travel in vans from Tennessee to Ohio and back, daily travel to different correctional institutions from the hotel and back – a total of 1600 miles. At every one of the seven stops, our team of sixteen had to go through security and have all of the multiple cases and containers of sound equipment and instruments meticulously examined. Then there was the set-up in a wide variety of types of rooms and soundcheck to assure the best projection possible in that room.

Through personal handshakes and greetings, hugs, fun music, an appearance by Santa, inspirational music, humor, words from a pastor, and communion, we communicated and embodied the message, “You are loved, you have worth, God is with you.” In and through that, both those visiting and those being visited were touched, changed and even transformed.

You may be asking, how have these experiences transformed my life, and why did I even consider getting into this? During my life, I had experiences that left me with no real desire to go into prisons. I appreciated those who did prison ministries of various kinds, but it wasn’t something that appealed to me. Some of those experiences were living for 40 years in the inner city where crime rates were high, being a victim of several crimes during those years, having friends victimized, and then working for nearly 20 years in the crime prevention unit of the police department.

When I moved from Minneapolis, MN to Nashville, TN, I got involved in a progressive church which had an affiliated non-profit ministry to prisons. Gradually the stories of the impact of these visits and the urging of the director pushed into my heart, and I agreed to go on one of the “friends” tours that brought about 40 members of the church along on 3 days of a 7-day tour. After that, I wanted to participate every time possible because I saw the world and people differently. I wanted to be a part of bringing light into dark places like prisons in ways that were life affirming and inspiring, not shaming and fear-based. The letters that come back from the inmates who have experienced these programs are filled with new hope and gratitude. Many reflect an impact that lasts, not just a one-day reprieve from their situation. Amazing!

I encourage you to look at places in your life where you have drawn lines and seen other people as totally other, totally different than the people with whom you ordinarily surround yourselves with. Step out, try new experiences, see what happens in your life. Transforming your years after 50 can start with taking that kind of step beyond what you already know.

If you would like to learn more about this outreach ministry, go to http://timothysgift.com