This is one in a series of posts sharing the stories of grandparents, parents and young people who are joining the Walk for Our Grandchildren, July 19th-27th.
This week-long, 100-mile walk will bring an intergenerational message of hope from Camp David to the White House to demand that President Obama reject the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline and confront the growing crisis of climate change. You can join us for a day on the trail, or join walkers and thousands of others for a culminating rally at the White House on July 27th. Click here to learn more and sign up.
Three generations of the Siler family, based in North Carolina, will join the multi-day trek to the White House: Mahan Siler, a 78-year-old grandfather and retired Baptist minister, his son Mark Siler, and his granddaughter Leigh, who at age 11 will be one of the youngest walkers. All three generations will speak together from the stage of the White House rally on July 27th. In these statements, Mahan and Mark explain why.
By Mahan Siler
Two conversions put my feet on this coming Walk for Grandchildren. Two wake up calls compel this minute witness of body, mind and spirit.
One, I see it now. The planet of my life time (and the life time of my parents, grandparents and ancestors for centuries back) will not be the planet of my grandchildren and their children. The consequences of carbon pollution have reached a point of no return. The planet they are inheriting is not the planet I inherited.
I look in the eyes of my six grandchildren, saying, “I have been a part of the problem, in part ignorance, in part denial. I can’t change the compromised planet you are inheriting, but I will pledge to join the movement to minimize the damage and work for sustainable living among all human and non-beings.” My walking — along with son, Mark, and granddaughter, Leigh — is my vow to do just that, to join, not just watch, this liberation movement.
The second life-changing awareness is the current “longevity revolution.” This is the first time in evolution when a person can reach the age of sixty-five and reasonably speculate, “I could live for two, even three more decades.” Never before has this been a viable option for so many. This option demands the questions: “What then will you do with these years? How will you invest them? How will you steward the gift of your life experiences in ways that bring life and hope to next generations?”
We elders have power we are not offering. As elders, many of us have the health, the security, the time, the seasoned relationships, fewer responsibilities, the inner freedom to declare with our lives what matters most. It is a time, not for “retiring” and withdrawal. Eldering is a time for bold self-giving in ways that gift future generations of families. The planet, not just our grandchildren, needs us. It needs are support, our experience, our perspective, our hope, our energy. At seventy-eight, I appeal to other elders who also benefit from this “longevity revolution.” Join me in claiming and offering our power for the healing of gaia, our sacred body.
I walk as a grandparent; I walk as an elder.
By Mark Siler
Do I really have a choice? I have a 78 year old father on one side and an 11 year old daughter on the other, both who are saying, “Of course I will walk for the planet. Of course I will do what I can to end my country’s addiction to an unsustainable way of life.” How can I say “no” to that?
Truth is, I can and I do. I too, like so many, am trying to find my way to Shalom, to right and whole relationship with Creator, creation, self and others. And that path, if I’m honest, reveals the many ways that I still participate in the problem instead of the healing. But I am blessed with the wisdom of children and elders alike. They help me say “yes”. They help me see that it is by walking that I discover a new way. It is by walking that I join with and am changed by this growing movement of resilience. It is by walking that I stay awake to an ancient way of living with the earth. The fact that it feels “new” only highlights how far I have drifted.
In a response to a question about the role of children in the climate change movement, I recently heard Bill McKibben say that the best thing we can give our children is the opportunity to fall in love with nature. He added something like, “we stand up for and protect what we love.” My father played a big role in helping me love nature and my daughter continues it. As I write, she is at camp backpacking in the pouring rain and in her own words, “loving it.” In addition, our family has had the rare opportunity (for US citizens at least) to know and love our brothers and sisters in Cuba, a nation greatly affected by storms caused by too much carbon in the atmosphere. Carbon that Cubans have played a tiny role in creating.
In the end, I am walking because I love and I want to love more. I walk with and for my family, both present and future. I walk with and for a planet that is miraculous in its ability to provide us what we need. I walk to discover more and more how this provision is enough. I walk with and for my Cuban family and all those most vulnerable in this reality that I’ve helped create. I walk because I love and I will love more because I walk.