“This Changes Everything”

by Terry Sterrenberg

I’ve been finishing Naomi Klein’s book This Changes Everything.  I was reminded that I hadn’t finished the book when I heard the name several times on television referring to any number of popular causes, events, or facts.  Even a car ad used the phrase.  It seems that Klein hit on a title that everyone feels entitled to use in regard their own pet thing.  Anyway I am finishing it.  Reading books like hers awakens my mind to new thoughts.  Sometimes not even related to what I am reading.

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In this case I began thinking about what it means to grow older and about my relationship to my mother who died last year at the age of 94.  She had a stroke and died 10 days later.  The night before she died her children and grandchildren and some of their spouses gathered around her bed and her three children told stories of their childhood.  Some had been secrets.  It was a wonderful family gathering.

Since her death I have wondered if we did the right thing not taking her to the hospital.  This was her request and although we all knew what that could mean, we nevertheless felt a deep agreement and desire to do her bidding.  She had been to the hospital and she wanted none of that.  So when she had the stroke that we all knew was coming we were ready and so was she.

So at this reading of Klein’s book my thoughts drifted to her and to what it means for me to be growing older, and also to what I want to be doing with my life at this point.  Reflecting for me always is a kind of sad experience as I think about the great plans I had to change the world.  And how now feeling older I still have ideas (as a contrast to plans) of how the world can change.  I feel a lot like my mother when she said at the age of 90, “I don’t really feel old,  I still feel like I am 16 on the inside”, and then when I look in the mirror and am reminded of the life I have lived, I feel sad and I know I will not see those changes I know are possible.  Sometimes it seems that my life’s dream is just slipping by me.  And I remember times of missed opportunity that would have made “big changes” for everyone, and I remember a life I wish I had lived.

I need to let you know that I really love my life.  I am not despondent.  However I have a lot of disappointment when I see and hear how some people treat each other these days.  As I read in Klein’s book  about the extent of damage that has been done to our planet in the name of progress and what seems to be mindless, reckless abandonment  of logic and compassion in regard to planet earth and its inhabitants, and  I feel that in the USA we may have tipped the tipping point  for recovery.  There is so much division, lying, blaming, and suspicion of those that are different from us that I cannot see a way out of the mess we are in.  Where are the people who value honor, compassion, truth, cooperation   and the common good?  Where are the people who take responsibility for their actions and own their weakness and mistakes so the problems of society can be solved?   Where are the people whose hearts are full of life and (dare I say) love that are the midwives of our common future.

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I don’t think I am the only one who is looking for these people to have in my life.  Such a group generates trust.  Such a group generates affinity.  Such a group is the basis for a new kind of economy   that starts with the question “How can every person have what they need to thrive and excel in life?”  Not “How much does it cost or how much money can it make me?”  Such a group shares life stories and ushers in new life for all those who are around them.  Such a group does indeed change everything. Such a group is the foundation for the Villaging Project.

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