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Living with Different Generations : Sister Mary Frances Schafer

One of the great things about living in community is that we have the opportunity to live with different generations. We have sisters in all age categories, from their 30s to their 90s. To live with someone who is twice my age allows me to tap into their wisdom. They have experienced things that I have not. I also have the opportunity to share with them. We learn from each other as long as we are open to the experiences. It is not always easy, but being open allows for us to grow and learn from each other.

Here are Sister Mary Frances’ thoughts:

Sister Mary Frances Schafer

What are the joys for you by living with different ages?

I agree with what you have already said. It is the wisdom that comes to mind for me.

For example: When I lost my dad and again with my sister’s death, it was so helpful to hear people who have lost a parent or sibling to talk about their experience of grieving. I am able to understand a bit of what is happening for me because of their sharing of their experience. I see the advantage I have over my brother and his family. I can then pass that wisdom along to them because I had folks who shared it with me.

It also helps to put things in perspective when someone who has lived in community talks about similar experiences when they were newer in community. It helps to bring an understanding to why some react as they do. I remember feeling that “my generation” was being ignored or overlooked until I heard the stories of those more experienced and how they felt the same things when they were younger. They also brought perspective to when things seem to be the “way we have always done things.” Their experience of how things were in their earlier time in community reminds me that things were not always the way they are now.

But I think what has really influenced me is when I am frustrated, angry, disappointed, etc. with community and wondering if I still belong. I seek out or remember experiences of those who asked the same questions for themselves and decided to persevere a bit longer. When I hear the reasons they persevere, it helps to put into perspective my own experiences and strengthens my own resolve to persevere at least another day, and then another day and another until eventually I realize the frustration is fleeting, but the gift is continual.

Living with folks who are younger reminds me of my own growth and journey. Perspective in a different way. They too challenge me to be open to conversion. They help me appreciate that there are different stages in life. What I need and see as appropriate at the age of 62 is not necessarily what is appropriate or needed for someone at another stage in life. This realization helps me be more compassionate and accepting of myself and others (whether in community or not). This in turn has helped me be a better friend, family member, social worker, and professional.

What is hard about living with many different ages?

It can be hard because don’t we all want others to see it our way or from our perspective. It is never easy to realize our way is not the only way. Being open to the opportunities listed above come at a cost and sometimes I don’t want to pay that cost. Everything would be so much easier if they would only realize what I need and see as important is obviously on target and all other ways and needs only indicate the person is not as enlightened as I am.