I used to run every morning past a steel sculpture. It was in a Peace Garden. It was the depiction of 7 generations (one steel sculpture inside another of diminishing sizes for a total of 7 sculptures). Every time I would run by it I would think of the great people groups it represented. Native Americans have a wonderful philosophy of caring for the earth and its people. It is the “7th generation” rule that one live to ensure quality of life for the the next 7 generations. It’s the ultimate in sustainability – caring for precious resources so that they will last forever. There is an environmentally-friendly product line called Seventh Generation. On their website is the quote “In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations.” from The Great Law of the Iroquois Confederacy.
I have been privileged to live among several native American people groups and was most surprised that the idea of ownership was totally foreign to them until westerners came. They squatted on the land, using it to live for a while, their animals grazed on it, but there was no title-deed. Mother Earth belonged to all of them, and they shared it. All earth’s gifts were to meet present needs and then recycled/returned to the earth for the use of future generations. We get sand art; necklaces from shells, stones, beads and seeds; weapons from flint and wood; and clothing from natural fibers and hides from native peoples. In archeological digs we’ve never uncovered a land fill or an incinerator.
I don’t think the native Americans had any idea what they were doing when the white man gave them beads for Manhattan. The concepts of ownership and deeds were foreign to them. I saw this same thing in Belize, Central America when resort owners began to tell the Garifuna who lived in houses built up off the ground that they’d have to leave the white sand beaches upon which their houses stood. They waved land deeds in their faces, but that meant nothing to these native people who had been squatting there for 200 years. When I arrived there at the beginning of this millennium, the Garifuna had begun to reap the rewards of a generation of sending their children to college. For better or for worse, Garifuna lawyers and government officials were helping their people learn to live in new ways…deeds in hand.
What made me think of all this today was what Ann Voskamp posted on her blog How Every Parent Actually Parents Thousands of Children:
Inside the frames, the bodies, the souls of our children, reside the children still to come. And the children then still to come.
Like nestled dolls, future generations dwell within the child whose eyes I now look into, whose hands I now touch.
Every day we parent not one child, or even a few children, but every day we parent innumerable, countless children.
When I raise my voice, frustrated with a child, I speak to generations of children.
When I wipe away a tear, comfort, listen, I honor centuries of children.
When we meet our children, children we will not live to meet on this earth, are met, shaped, formed. Parented.
May we parent sustainably,