Topics on Aging

By Juan Gallo

How Should We Honor the Wisdom of Mother Figures? 

May 10, 2024

This Mother’s Day, I want to celebrate the influence of women who are mother figures — even if they didn’t birth you or raise you. 

I miss my own mom like crazy. That’s why I’m so thankful to have other motherly influences in my life.  

Recently, I got a call from Terri, who lives in North Carolina and is the mother of my best friend, CJ. I was about 13 when I started spending a lot of time with CJ and, therefore, his mom. 

Terri was a single mom, and a lot of my memories of her parallel memories of my own mother. She was always taking us to church and always smiling. 

She had a scary look too. She did this thing with her eyebrows that let me know I had crossed a line. 

I was driving the other day when she called me. 

“Bueno, Macho,” she began. (“Macho” what she calls me. It’s Puerto Rican slang for “boy” or “man.”) 

It was great to hear her voice and have a sympathetic ear for some of my recent frustrations and trials. In that conversation, I know that God used her to speak to me and to pray over me.

We can understand some of God’s truths in an intellectual sense. But it’s different coming from someone who you know has lived through some of her own, similar trials. 

I’m 42 now; Terri was about my age when CJ and I started being best friends. She watched me as I was growing up, and so she has a unique perspective when she speaks truth into my life now. 

Few people carry that type of authority. The weight of the simple truths she had to tell me carried such an impact. 

I was thankful for the word of truth she spoke over my life. 

Wisdom from Unexpected Places 

I wasn’t expecting Terri’s call that day. She just happened to call me, and I picked up.

A casual conversation at just the right moment turned into the affirmations I needed. 

“Macho, this is who you are,” she told me. “This is who God is in your life. Be a fighter. Don’t give up!” 

Her simple reminders were so much more powerful than unsolicited advice dropped into the casual conversation. So often, people offer their opinions about what you should do when you aren’t asking for their advice. I see that happen a lot in our culture. 

But there I was, talking with a woman who probably had the experience to know my best course of action, and she offered God’s truth, rather than her own opinion. 

It’s pretty powerful when someone exercises that level of wisdom. That’s the value of a holy woman of God in your life. 

Where do you glean wisdom?

I consider myself fortunate to be a recipient of wisdom from motherly women like Terri. 

Not all of us have that. In today’s culture, barriers between the generations prevent wisdom from being passed down. Seniors don’t necessarily live or work in shared spaces with us. Most of us don’t have the opportunity to listen to older folks in the course of our everyday lives. 

We all lose when that’s the case. 

That’s why I love when Heart2Heart volunteers commit to serving a senior in their community — even if it’s for a short amount of time. Our volunteers often tell us that the benefits they receive from spending time with seniors outweigh any acts of kindness they feel they offer their older friends. 

A Mother’s Day Challenge

This Mother’s Day, I challenge you to spend time with the mother figures in your life who can affirm the truths you need to hear. Maybe that means taking your mom out to eat and thanking her for her wisdom. 

Maybe it means calling someone who isn’t your mom but has been a mentor or a source of guidance in your life. It’s important to acknowledge women who fill those roles. 

If you don’t have someone who carries that level of authority in your life, I challenge you to seek out sources of wisdom. Find a mentor with a trusted track record in your industry. Look for opportunities to serve with senior saints in your faith community. Connect with an older relative whose experience you respect. Invite a neighbor over for coffee. 
Or, check out opportunities to serve seniors in our community. I know from experience the wisdom you’ll find as you serve.

Read more about:
Juan Gallo
Juan Gallo is the CEO of Heart2Heart Outreach, where he oversees the mobilization of volunteers to provide hope, share love and restore purpose to the lives of the aging population across South Florida.

He also serves as a local pastor and as an adjunct professor at Trinity International University, where he is teaching a course on diversity and aging. Juan has a master’s degree in counseling and psychology and is a licensed mental health counselor intern.

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Juan Gallo

This blog is a frank conversation about what it means to age in our society.

I want us to consider what a wider range of diverse experiences when we talk about aging. I want to reflect on how we, as a community, want our neighbors and our mothers and fathers and our grandparents to live out their latter decades of life. I want us to consider each one of their voices as we strive to meet their needs.

Join me for weekly discussions about what it means to be a senior in South Florida and how we can and should respond to the growing needs of the aging population.

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