Del Jones is a Tucson TreasureDec 02, 2013 03:21PM ● By Sylvia Haskvitz
When Del Jones looks back at all the things that engage her deeply, 90 percent have come from a book that said, “Get going!” Most people read a book, learn a few principles or ideas and move on. Jones reads books, gets inspired and begins organizations, programs and councils.
She has brought much to the Tucson community for the last 33 years. In her earlier years, she suffered discrimination as a woman. She wanted to contribute to changing that system. When systems aren’t working, she is the change. She takes action and creates something that does work.
Jones wants to live in a culture of kindness, compassion, understanding and love and embrace our interconnectedness. Jones read the Chalice and the Blade, by Riane Eisler, and started the Partnership Way organization, which is committed to new ways of thinking, feeling and acting based on the principles of power with instead of power over; using technology for creativity and peace rather than war and violence; equalitarianism; and respect for the planet.
Reading Cultures of Peace: The Hidden Side of History (Peace and Conflict Resolution), by Elise Boulding, resulted in her creating Peace Circles in Tucson to discuss peace practices.
Roots of Empathy: Changing the World Child by Child, by Mary Gordon led Jones to the process of bringing that program to Tucson. It’s acclaimed for fostering empathy and emotional literacy in children with the goal of creating a more civil society, one child at a time.
Jones was a wellness consultant for hospitals and served on the Governor’s Council of Health and Wellness, where she met Mel Zuckerman, of Canyon Ranch fame. He hired her to be the director of the Fitness Foundation. Zuckerman said they ought to do something for businesses and wellness. After attending a national conference and meeting someone that had begun a wellness council in his city, Jones was inspired, and after hearing about it, Zuckerman said, “Go for it!” that’s when Jones started the Wellness Council of Arizona with his blessing.
She read From Age-ing to Sageing: A Revolutionary Approach to Growing Older, by Zalman Schachter- Shalomi, and liked the idea of the saging circles it described. Jones created Elder Circles, which are now sponsored by Our Family Center for Community Dialogue. Her thought is that there should be an elder circle for anyone that wants to talk about the meaning of life. As Jones puts it, “I’m not a trivia talker.”
She was not new to the idea of circles, because she had already discovered peacemaking circles and knew the power of the circle. She also liked the idea of a venue to face up to our own mortality. Then Jones read a newsletter about the Conversation Project, a public engagement campaign to get everyone’s end-of-life wishes expressed and respected. She got excited about their message of getting rid of the death denial culture we live in.
Jones urges us to say the words “he died” rather than more euphemistic speak of passing away or transitioning. She leads a forum on death because she wants people to talk about the difficult conversations like death and is also an avid member of Death Cafe. She also has a gift of connecting people. In fact, she can imagine her tombstone reading “The Great Connector.”
When asked what has made her marriage of 68 years work, Jones says, “He lets me be who I am and do what I want.” And the Tucson community is grateful for that.
Sylvia Haskvitz is a frequent contributor to Natural Awakenings.