“Why won’t the young people come to help?”
“Young people these days feel entitled to all the things we worked hard to get. They’re not willing to sacrifice anything. They only think of themselves.”
“I’m scared for our country/business/family/church when it comes to these kids taking over.”
I guess I’m considered a “tweener” of generations right now. I’m in my late 40s. I have a lot of friends who are 60+ and even more who are under 40. As I recently interviewed nonprofit leaders, we often arrived at the topic of involvement and volunteerism, and I frequently heard snide comments about “young people.” I’d ask how we can bridge the gap, and more than one person gave a response of “It’s pretty hopeless,” blaming the younger generation.
However, when we stiff arm a generalized judgment about a group of people, isn’t the gap partly our fault, too? If we’re not willing to build a bridge, mentor, teach, listen, and walk through the messes of life of those trying to figure out the things we might have experienced but now see the solutions as simple and easy, we’re not putting forth the effort, just as we’re blaming others for their lack of effort.
Maybe we’re willing to help because we have more available time. Our families are grown, and we might even be retired from full-time jobs. We’re not balancing a young family’s schedule, several part-time jobs or two parents’ work schedules or building a business, financial pressures, constantly fixing used appliances, cars, and houses that we can barely afford, and so on. Yes, we’re busy, too, but we don’t seem to be able to respect what others are facing. We “remember” those days but somehow picture them a bit differently. We think of how much we served even when things were busy, how simple we kept our lives, or how firmly we kept our kids in line. We look back with rose-colored glasses. Or we remember the past as tough, but we survived and so will others, so why can’t they just buck up and pitch in to help and get more involved?
We wonder why the younger generation doesn’t come help us when we plan a service project…but we schedule it during work hours or sports and other kids’ activities. Instead of judging someone for what he or she isn’t doing, what if we verbalize our appreciation for their commitment to work and involvement in their kids’ lives? Instead of trying to compare someone’s life to the way we remember that same time in our life, why don’t we listen to where people are, refusing to give the easy, general answers of “It will all work out” or “You’ll survive and look back at these years and wish you had them back”?
We might not understand everything another generation is going and has gone through, but that goes both ways. How can we expect others to get to know us and be willing to see our perspective of things if we’re not willing to begin the conversation? When will we realize that complaining about others wanting their own way reveals our selfishness, too? How can we live with hope among people who are different than we are instead of being doomsayers who claim all is lost…unless everyone begins to think and act just as we do.
How rude, self-centered, inflexible, and prideful of us.
In the Bible, a generation isn’t limited to a specific age range of people. A generation most commonly refers to all the people alive at that time. Instead of separating groups of people based on life stage and pitting one against the other, it’s reaching around them all and claiming responsibility together. It’s sharing identity without pointing fingers. It’s humbly getting to know each other, and taking the higher ground needed to find common ground.
Are we willing?
If we’re not, we miss out…and so do the people we pit ourselves against.