Delivered by Shantha Ready Alonso at the 2019 American Climate Leadership Summit. The Visualization was inspired by this year’s Earth Day Resource theme “Next Generation Rises.”
Let’s begin by centering ourselves. If you are comfortable closing your eyes, you can shut them at this time. Or, as an alternative, relax your gaze and let it stay on an inanimate object nearby. We are going to take a few minutes to journey inside the mind.
Each of us came to this gathering with a long to-do list of chores and work deliverables. I invite you to give yourself the gift of being fully present today. Pack up your concerns from home, from your job, and put them into a box under your chair. Don’t worry, they will be there for you to retrieve and attend to once again later today.
I invite you now to join me in an exercise to reflect on some of the important reasons why we are all here. Think of a young person who you deeply care about. It could be a child, grandchild, niece, nephew, godchild, friend, student, mentee, or neighbor. As this person becomes the focus in your mind, remember some details about them. Replay some of the good times you spent with them, which highlight what makes them so special to you.
Maybe you see their smile, or you remember a day you received insight into this young person’s way of seeing the world. Maybe you shared a moment of solemnity or deep meaning.
In 30 years, what are your hopes for the life you want your young loved one to lead? Where might they live? What might their home be like? How will they spend their time? What are they passionate about? What do they hold sacred? Who might they count among their loved ones? (A baby born today will be 31 years old in the year 2050.)
Now, picture your loved one in that future setting, 30 years from now. Your loved one is telling a story about you. What is your young loved one saying about your lifework, and the impact you had?
Is there something about the example you are setting today which you hope your loved one will emulate in the years to come?
Travel back to the present with me now, but hold your loved one close to the center of your attention. In climate work, we often say our actions today will have a profound impact on future generations. This work is personal. I invite you to dedicate your activities today to your loved one’s future. Remember that box we wrapped up at the beginning of this session? Keep it closed for the conference today, as much as you can. May we be present to one another by bringing our full physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual attention here.
I invite us all to break the silence now by speaking aloud the name of the young person to whom each of us dedicates this day. When I count to three, please speak that person’s name aloud. 1…2…3… [NAMES]
Shantha has served as Executive Director for Creation Justice Ministries since 2015. She worked for the National Council of Churches from 2008-2013 doing young adult, anti-poverty, and eco-justice ministries. She also served as vice chair of the World Student Christian Federation from 2008-2015. Shantha is a contributing author to For Such a Time as This: Young Adults on the Future of the Church and editor of the anthology: Towards a Global Christian Movement for Eco-Justice: Young Voices from North America. Most recently, Shantha led the community mobilization efforts of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, the organization that created Nuns on the Bus. Shantha holds a Master of Social Work and a Master of Pastoral Studies from Washington University in St. Louis and Eden Theological Seminary.