Rainbow Seniors Newsletter – March 9, 2016

March 9, 2016

Welcome to the March 2016 newsletter of Rainbow Seniors of Berkshire County.

Discovering What We Do Best:

At Our February Potluck in Williamstown:

Sometimes crossed wires can make the best connections.

Just days before our February 16 potluck, we got the word that the big Community Hall at the First Congregational Church was undergoing major rehab work. We could still use the kitchen to prep our potluck, but we would have to enjoy the meal in a much smaller room — The Library. We worried — but we shouldn’t have! Not only did the room hold us all, but the much smaller room cast a magic spell. Eating on our laps had a friendly picnic feel to it. And when it came time for our afternoon discussion, the intimacy of that small room infused everyone with a feeling of closeness — and trust — that brought out memories, observations, and personal histories that were fascinating to hear.

We were so enthused with the results that we made two decisions that day:

  1. Let’s keep on meeting in the library until we grow so big that we just can’t shoehorn ourselves in there anymore.
  2. Let’s keep on doing what we apparently do best: talking — and listening — to one another, marveling at and learning from one another’s life experiences.

So here’s the plan: After the meal, we will go around the room to check in with everyone and see if anyone has a discussion topic to suggest. If nothing strikes our fancy, we will have a  grab bag handy filled with possible topics. When we find one that inspires us, that’s where we will start. And wherever the group takes it, that’s where we will go. Ed will facilitate, to make sure everyone gets a fair chance to speak and to influence the direction of the conversation.

We can never have too many topics to choose from, so please feel free to e-mail us with your suggestions. They’ll all go into the grab bag.

At Our March 5 Meeting in Pittsfield:

Listening was also the watchword in Pittsfield when we gathered last Saturday at the Athenaeum. In this case, men listening to women.

At the February meeting, the members had asked the women of our group if they would like to talk to us about the conflicts that have erupted in the past between the men and the women in our movement. People were concerned that Rainbow Seniors not repeat that part of our history. The women took up the challenge, collaborating on a presentation for our March 5 meeting, where Abby, Bim, Celia, and Sandra each spoke about relationships between men and women — both in their personal lives and in the community-wide conflicts many of us remember from the late ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s.

What was wonderful was the generous spirit with which the women shared their histories, and how closely the men listened to their experiences and observations; with what care they asked questions; and the obvious concern we had for one another.

I can’t help quoting a bit from Abby’s presentation. (I recommend you read her entire piece; it’s on our website here.)

“I really like queer people. We are more insightful, interesting, and fun than straights. I think we get something from being outsiders. Fun is what I hope for, for this group.”

And I would add that we are even better when we are older!

Our Next Meetings

Play it safe and never miss another one of our meetings. Grab you calendar and mark . . . 

  • the third Tuesday of each month from noon to 2ish for our potlucks at the First Congregational Church of Williamstown.

Join us for our Pittsfield meetings, too. More and more members are now attending both meetings.

  • the first Saturday of each month from 2 to 4 pm at the Berkshire Athenaeum in Pittsfield.

Our next two meetings will be . . .

  • Tuesday, March 15, noon-2pm, First Congregational Church of Williamstown: Our highly successful potluck lunches continue, followed by a discussion on whatever topic we draw from our Conversational Grab Bag. Share a dish at the potluck, then share your thoughts and feelings in the conversation.
    •  Saturday, April 2, 2-4pm, Berkshire Athenaeum: We will spend some time getting to know one another and munching on refreshments while we discuss a topic of the group’s choosing.

NOTE: Our April meeting in Pittsfield immediately follows the LGBTQIA Live Out Loud Community Conference at Berkshire Community College. There will be a morning workshop on “Creating Safe Spaces for LGBTQ Elders,” given by Ed, and after lunch we can hightail it over to the Athenaeum for our regular meeting. The flyer is at the bottom of this newsletter. Check it out. 
We Admit It. We’re Recruiting

We had a wonderful opportunity to spread the Rainbow Seniors message to our friends over in Adams last month. On February 19, Bim and Ed presented “Straight Answers to Gay Questions” — our all-purpose Q&A program devised to educate seniors about LGBTQ lives and the issues we face — to a roomful of seniors at the Adams Council on Aging. The turnout was impressive — possibly because they knew how interesting we would be, or maybe because, as a favor to us, Sweetwood of Williamstown catered a gourmet lunch to sweeten the day. (Jill Drummond of Sweetwood is a big fan of Rainbow Seniors and is always on the lookout for ways to collaborate with us.)

This was Bim and Ed’s first rollout of the Q&A, and we had no idea what to expect. Nonetheless, we told the crowd not to worry about offending us: we would rather they ask the questions they really had on their minds. Not only was therte no discomfort coming from the crowd, but they were genuinely curious. They wanted to learn what life was like for us back in the really oppressive days and why we enjoy having a senior program geared just for us. We and they could have gone on far longer, but nobody likes cold lasagna.

Before we finished, we played our little trick. Everyone in the room was handed a paper with information about Rainbow Seniors, including where we meet and how to get in touch with us. We said, as we distributed the papers, “We’d appreciate your taking this paper home. Who knows who you might run into who would be interested to know about us.” Yes, you guessed it: Just in case there were some LGBTQ seniors in the room who weren’t out to their neighbors, this was our way of getting the info in their hands without their having to be seen asking for it.

We will soon be doing another appearance, this time at the Cheshire Council on Aging, and as our funding comes in, we plan to bring our little show to every senior center in the county who will have us.

Endless Thank-Yous:

A project like Rainbow Seniors wouldn’t last long without an active volunteer corps helping us to grow. And so we must thank our Advisory Committee, some of whom have been with us from the beginning and some who have joined us along the way: They are Abby, Alan, Bim, Carlos, Hugh, and Larry, So far. If you’d like to join their ranks, we’d love to have you. Just send an email to Ed (click here) to volunteer yourself.

A very special thank-you goes to Larry, who has been developing our online presence. This is the 21st century, folks — like it or not — and a program like ours simply cannot grow or even function without ways to reach the public via the Internet. He has designed both a website for us (www.rainbowseniors.org) and a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/berkshirerainbowseniors), both of which he keeps up to date with interesting articles, announcements, and illustrations. Think about sending those links to friends of yours who might be intrigued to join us.

You might also enjoy Larry’s amazing blog, Berkshire On Stage, with up-to-the-minute info on the arts in Berkshire County, including reviews by Larry, Gail, and our own Abby, and Larry’s incisive interviews of the stars.

Do You Like to Read? or See and Discuss Movies?

Advisory Committee member Hugh is an avid reader. And he loves to share what he thinks of the books he reads. The same goes for watching and discussing movies.

Does that describe you, too? How about we set up a regular book/movie group, either at someone’s home or in a public place, like a library. If you think you might enjoy that, send an email to Ed at rainbowseniorsbc@gmail.com and we will take it from there.

How Are You Celebrating Pride?

That question was in the air at our March meeting in Pittsfield. Folks didn’t just ask the question; they came up with some possible answers that the Advisory Committee will now explore. They were

  • An group outing to Northampton Pride on Saturday, May 7, maybe even riding in the parade.
  • A Pride Celebration concert right here in the Berkshires in June, sharing LGBTQ talent with our neighbors

We’ll be looking into these possibilities and will let you know as soon as possible. They both sound like a tons o’ fun!

See you soon, we hope!