Book Review: This is Who I Am: Listening with Older Friends

Book-This is who I amVolume 9 of the Eldership and Oversight Handbooks, Quaker Books, London, 2004

Book Review by Rory Short, Johannesburg Monthly Meeting — April 2015

The book is aimed at helping older Friends grapple with the fact that they are aging, i.e. drawing steadily closer to death, and what this means for them in terms of changes both as physical and spiritual beings. These changes are not catalogued as such but are touched on throughout the text as the difficulties and rewards of actively listening to an older person are covered.

Its central tenet seems to be that older persons need people to share their experience with in order to help them to ingest these experiences both past and present. To this end the last section of the pamphlet is devoted to sensitively exploring the conditions that are necessary for creating a good one-on-one listening environment for the older person as the person being listened to.

The book focuses on the idea of establishing a Meeting for Listening within our worshiping communities as a context within which older Friends will experience the material and spiritual companionship that they might otherwise feel that they lack.

The book seems to be written from the perspective of the members of larger Meetings in Britain where the Meeting as a whole rolls along on the crest of the standing wave of generations. In Johannesburg this is not the case. JMM is sliding down the generational slope as the majority of our worshiping members are in our 70‘s. It is thus difficult for us to lay down the mechanical logistical roles in the Meeting as there are just too few younger people able to step into them. This is not to say that Meetings for Listening would not be appropriate but that the listeners would inevitably have to be ourselves, the older Friends. We are facing a different situation compared to someone in a Meeting that embraces both young and old. It is nevertheless worth reading through this pamphlet if only to see that as an older Friend you are not alone in your experience.

— Rory Short

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