Remembering The Ancestors

This past week, I was teaching the principles and practices of effective collaboration at the Boeing Company. It was a great class. The second day of the program happened to fall on Veterans Day, or as it is called in Canada, Remembrance Day. At 11:00 AM, our program adjourned for observances.


One of the course participants, Dave, is a retired Air Force officer, a 26-year service veteran. He led the observance by providing some background on Veterans Day, its history and its importance.  He talked about those that had inspired him, family members that had served in foreign campaigns and then he invited others to share their memories and acknowledgements. Most of the class participants shared about their gratitude to someone in their family or community who had served their country.


It was a deeply touching, co-created ceremony.


As I was listening to people share about their memories and experiences, it brought to mind a conversation with Percy, a man I met in South Africa. He was a Sangoma, a healer of the Xhosa tribe.


Percy was a participant in a workshop on reconciliation that I was honored to attend. At one point, he rose to address the other people in the group.  We had been discussing the issues of honor and respect. Percy talked about the decline of honor and respect in his culture. That the ancestors were no longer acknowledged and honored was the root cause of sickness in society, he said.


That got me thinking. We have so few rituals of remembrance of the ancestors in our culture. Perhaps we think of loved ones lost at holidays or anniversaries. But other than Veterans Day, Remembrance Day, when do we pay tribute to the ones that have gone before us, the ones with so much to teach?


Percy is right. Our society is currently challenged by the very conditions that our ancestors can most teach us about: the ways of honor, respect, personal responsibility, flexibility, discipline, foregiveness and compassion.


Every day should be Remembrance Day, an opportunity to remember our ancestors...and ask for their continued support.

Posted on November 15, 2009 and filed under Insight.