Monday, 12 August 2013

Respect Your Elders

Meet The Elder That Taught Me How To "Respect My Elders"

Are you like me and grew up hearing the words, "Respect Your Elders" It seemed like every time I turned around I heard those words. My parents were very big on respecting our elders. I recall hearing these words over and over again but I don't recall my parents telling us or showing us ways to respect our elders. Twelve years ago I had the pleasure of meeting this wonderful Native Elder by the name of Mary Uslick or Grandma Mary as she preferred to be called. She taught me many things including telling me and showing me different ways to show respect to an elder. I have come to the conclusion that respecting our elders has become a lost art and society needs a refresher course. Did you know that there is such thing as Elder Abuse? I've seen commercials on TV speaking out against it. The commercials are a good thing however I am sickened that there's a need for such a thing. "The woman is this picture is my precious Grandma Mary."

This is Grandma Mary her spirit name was"Skemcis" which means Grizzly Bear.

Photo Credit:Photobucket

Never Rush An Elder.

As I told you before I had the amazing opportunity to know this great elder that we all lovingly called Grandma Mary. She taught me a lot of amazing things.Some of the things she taught me were ways to show respect an elder. The was first lesson she taught me on the very first day I went out to see her. Grandma needed to go shopping so I went to pick her up. She invited me to come in and sit down. I came in,sat down and waited as I expected her to get ready.She didn't get up to get ready she started talking about different things. I was all set to go shopping and wanted to get going so I said something about getting going. Her response was very simple but it hit home and I never forgot it. She stopped talking, took out a cigarette lit it up, took a big drag and said,"You know you never rush an Elder." I went shopping one day and as I was leaving there was an Elder getting into the car parked next to mine. So I just stood there and waited patiently while she got into the car. Her daughter saw that I was waiting and told her mom to let me get in my car. I told her that it was OK I didn't mind waiting that you were never suppose to rush an Elder. The daughter thanked me profusely for my patience and for showing respect to her mom. She said told me that all to often people got impatient with how slow her mom was. She said that society doesn't respect their Elders like they used to.
A painting I did of Grandma Mary

Never argue with an Elder.

Grandma Mary was great for teaching lessons on the spot. Once she taught you something you never forgot it. Grandma Mary had her ways of doing things too. One thing that she liked to do was go out to eat. Most often if you came out to see her she would want to go eat somewhere and she usually paid for dinner. It was very humbling for me to have her pay for my meals. A lot of times it just wasn't me she took out to eat,it was me and my three kids. I remember the first time she went to pay the bill and I tried to pay for my own. It was then she taught me this lesson. She simply said to me, "You know," she said that a lot, "you never argue with an Elder and if an Elder gives you something you just say thank you". That was a hard pill to swallow for me sometimes. I was a single mom living on a very limited income that didn't like being on the receiving end of the giving chain. I liked to be the one that was doing the giving,it was my way of giving back. I think this was Grandma Mary's way of giving back too. And since she was the Elder she won that one.

If an Elder tells you off thank them.

"If an Elder tells you off thank them. " After all they cared enough to take the time and energy to tell you off. You might not agree with what they said but you should thank them anyhow and think about what they said, after all you could learn something.

Photo Credit:Photobucket

If you have an opportunity to attend a feast at any kind of gathering in the Aboriginal community you'll see that"Elders eat first and they are served." Elders are very much respected in the community. To serve an Elder is considered a honor. However there is a right way and a wrong way to serve an Elder. One Elder told me that he was considering not going to a certain place because of the way he was served. He appreciated the fact the people liked to serve the Elders but his preferences were not taken into account when his plate was prepared. He wasn't given enough to eat or drink. He also said that people didn't give him a choice on whether or not he wanted to be served. One man basically came up and ordered him to sit down so he could serve him. Enough with the wrong way to serve an Elder. Here's the right way. First off have some idea of what is on the menu. If you can go and scope out what's being served. You should then go approach an Elder and ask if you can serve them. If they say yes ask them what they would like to eat, tell them what their choices are. If you haven't had a chance to take a peak, tell them you will go see what is being served. You should also be aware of any food allergies your Elder may have. They will more than likely tell you. I have one Elder that is allergic to dairy and egg yokes. He can eat margarine but not butter. I ask him what he would like to eat after telling him what is being served. He has sent me to find out if there is any dairy in certain dishes that he wants to eat. He also needs to know if it's butter or margarine. Oh and don't forget the desserts. Elders love those sweets. After all the Elders have been served then every one can eat.

Give an Elder your seat.

Photo Credit:Photobucket

Stand Up For An Elder

One day I went to a Pow Wow with Grandma Mary where she taught me this lesson. It's actually a very simple lesson to learn and takes little or no effort to perform. We sat down to watch the dancers. I guess Grandma Mary noticed an Elder standing up because she looked at me and said, "If you see an Elder standing find them a chair. If there aren't any empty chairs give them yours." They usually have reserved seating for Elders at pow wows and other gatherings. However there maybe cases where all the reserved chairs are taken and an Elder needs a seat. After all it's easier for us young folks to stand than it is for an Elder. How about riding the buses? Have you ever gotten on to a very crowded bus and saw an Elder standing. Doesn't the thought of that make your teeth shudder.Don't people realize how fragile Elders can be. If the bus were to stop suddenly that poor Elder left standing could fall and break a hip or some other body part. I just shake my head and wonder what is wrong with our society these days. It is so easy to stand up and give an Elder your seat. And the rewards are huge. Not only do you get to feel good about doing a good deed you get to have the gratitude of a most thankful Elder.

Help an Elder any way you can.

Photo Credit:Photobucket

It is very rewarding to help an Elder anyway you can. I had the amazing opportunity to be able to help out Grandma Mary in so many different ways. She was a very wise hard working woman. However despite her knowledge she only read and wrote a very little so she needed help with just about everything that had to do with reading and writing. She was fortunate enough to have some very trust worthy people to help her.I used to go over to see her and read her mail to her. I also read the news paper to her if she saw an article that looked interesting. I'd help her pay her bills by writing cheques that she signed. I also took her to the bank where the bank tellers took care of her. I just stood off to the side and waited until she was done respecting her privacy. I used to love going grocery shopping with her. I took this as an opportunity to pamper her a little especially in the produce department. I would go and get plastic bags to put her produce in and hand them to her one at a time when she needed them and then I'd hand her a twist tie. I know it sounds like such a small thing to do but I know she appreciated it. After we finished her shopping we'd take her groceries home. I'd carry them in the house for her and put them away. I'm glad that Grandma Mary trusted me to help her out. I really felt good about myself knowing that she did.

They tell us because they want us to remember.

Listen To Your Elders

One very easy way to show respect to an Elder is to listen to them speak. Elders are a great resource. They are keepers of our history. Traditionally the Aboriginal culture is a non-written culture.Their history is passed down from one generation to the next through stories. These stories are told by the Elders. Grandma Mary used to tell me the same thing several times. I thought at first that she told me the same thing so many times because she forgot she told me. Then I realized she told me so many times because she wanted me to remember. She carried a lot of history for her people. She was one of the last elderly Elders from her community. She knew a lot of information about the area she was from. She knew all the family names and who was related to who. She also knew all the names for the mountains, river and streams in that area. I was thinking the other day that the Aboriginal culture isn't the only culture that passes on their history through the Elders. Every culture has Elders that pass down their history. Not every family has a book in the local library about their family history. The job of passing down history is generally left up to the grandparents. I think everyone should go visit the grandmas and grandpas with a note book or tape recorder in hand. Better yet why not take a movie camera and ask them to talk about their childhood or their parents live. You will be surprised at the stories they have to tell. I never had the opportunity to know my grandparents as a result I know very little about my family history. I implore you if your grandparents are still alive take advantage of that and listen to the stories they tell. You could learn something about yourselves.

And The Greatest Gift Of All Is Love.

The greatest reward that you receive from helping an Elder is love. I knew that Grandma Mary loved me. She showed me in so many ways. I was very fortunate to have this wonderful woman in my life. I didn't have the opportunity to know my grandparents, aunts and uncles and my mother wasn't much of a mother to me. Grandma Mary filled all those places in my life. Sometimes she was my grandmother, sometimes she was my auntie, sometimes she was my sister, sometimes she was my friend and sometimes she was my mom. She gave me a token of her love, a little brown teddy bear. We were out grocery shopping on day when she saw this bin of teddy bears. She went looking through the bin to find a brown one. She found it and gave it to me to put in the grocery cart. I looked at the price and saw that it cost over sixteen dollars. I was going to say something to her about how much it cost but thought never mind its her money she can spend it any way she wants. We went home and put her groceries away. After everything was put away she handed me the teddy bear. She said,"Here put this in your car so you always know Skemcis is looking out for you." I still have that teddy bear sitting in my car just like she told me. It's been over four years since Grandma Mary passed away and I know that she is still looking out for me

And Now For A RUDE AWAKENING....Elder Abuse Put An STOP To It!

What Is Elder Abuse?

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According to the Victims Of Violence web site Elder Abuse was first seen in the news as far back as the 1970's but was a problem long before that. Elder Abuse has been recognized as a crime that has become a social concern in many circles. Elder Abuse is defined as being "Elder abuse is abuse committed against a person in the advanced years of their life and can include physical, emotional or sexual abuse, financial abuse, medical deprivation or over-medication, neglect, or the basic violation of human rights. This abuse can be in the form of family violence, institutional violence, or violence by a stranger."

Eye Witness To Elder Abuse.

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Sadly Grandma Mary passed away in 2007. Since then I have met another Elder that I've had the privilege of helping out on a few occasions. Sadly I witnessed this precious Elder been taken advantage of by his own daughter. He was in the hospital because he was sick,not because he wanted a holiday. He phoned his daughter to let her know he was there and of course she came to visit. I think the only reason she came to visit him was to give him a sob story. She told him that she was broke and had no money to buy food for her and her kids.She told me that she was living in a bad situation. I guess she asked her aging sick father if she could borrow some money because he gave her his bank card and she never brought it back. I couldn't believe it. I visited him every day while he was in the hospital and she never came back. We had to go over to house to get the bank card when I took him home from the hospital. We stopped by the bank to check his bank balance on the way home and he was over drawn. Needless to say he had to borrow money to live off of for the rest of the month. If you know an Elder please tell them to be very careful about who they give their bank card to. I'd also encourage you to tell them to feel free to phone the police if they have been abused or taken advantage of in any way.

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