[Intramuralist Note: Today features Guest Writer #9 in our annual summer series; the opinions expressed may or may not be held by me, but I value the writer’s expression and their commitment to respect…]
My wife and I are very social. We love having friends and family over. We live in a tourist destination, so we have been fortunate and only once, unfortunately (it was the guest from hell – another blog post will detail that encounter), to host many of our family and friends in the 22+ years since we have lived here. Apparently, our adult girls have acquired or learned our social graces. Our house was always the home where apparently parents felt safe enough to leave their kids with us. We have watched our girls and their friends grow up to be mostly mature and productive young adults. Most have managed to get some college and vocational training. In fact a few not only have degrees, but advanced degrees. So I’m pleased where they seem to be headed.
Each of my girls have their own places; in fact, my youngest is now a homeowner. My eldest is still working towards that. Somehow, however, our home is still a gathering place. Many Sundays, holidays or days off they seem to find a way to their old nest. My wife and I still refer to their rooms as “the girls’ rooms.” Even though they have not been in those rooms for at least 2 years, we still have memories that are mostly great for the 18 years or so they lived here. Some of those years had absences for both away schooling and a small military experience (another day’s article on that military experience, as well).
The interesting thing about their frequent drop-ins is that their friends seem to know when they are here and also drop in. So my food budget is seemingly ruined week after week. Most of them are pretty good eaters. They also don’t mind enjoying a few adult beverages. I still have some trouble handling that, as I am not a drinker, but they do drink responsibly, so I am comforted by that.
What my wife and I get from this obviously uneven exchange is we get to have a dialogue from 20 somethings. They are very vocal about likes, dislikes, social issues, politics, and entertainment. Thanks to them I can span the conversation from artists as diverse as Ed Sheeran and Elton John, from Beyonce to Kelly Clarkson to Drake. I have a playlist — thanks to my nephew — that rivals any top 40 station… did you know the groups Imagine Dragons and The Killers are both local Las Vegas bands? … did you also know the group Florida-Georgia Line actually originated in Nashville, Tennessee? … pretty cool, eh ? All these things I learned by listening or engaging in their dinner conversations.
So yes, we enjoy the dialogue, but what, do you ask, troubles this writer?
It seems this generation is looking to solve all the world’s problems in one swift stroke. They are concerned about climate change, political discord, racism, whether our food is from Non-GMO sources or not… we’ve discussed gun control, Black Lives Matter, the MeToo movement and other issues at our kitchen table’s version of the United Nations. All these issues are worthwhile causes to discuss. Every single issue represented here is worthy of its own blog piece. In fact, I wrote on climate change last year. AR, who is responsible for this space, must have also enjoyed it because she invited me to return this year.
The main difference that I explain to my children and their friends is that as mentioned, while these causes are worthwhile, their generation seems to want to solve every issue today. Today. In fact, it seems as if today is too late; these should have been solved yesterday. I have explained, for instance, that an issue like racism has been a part of the human experience since the beginning of time. Using Martin Luther King, Jr. as an example, I have shared that in his iconic, 1963 “I have a dream” speech, he begins each stanza by saying, “I have a dream that one day…” In other words, MLK knew that to change minds and legislation, it would be an involved process. To say we have not seen any change to race relations would not be truthful. To say there is not still much work to do would also would not be truthful. My advice is to acknowledge and embrace the positive changes that have occurred.
I still encourage them to continue to push for changes in racial equality and other issues they embrace, but to understand it will change only through smart, strategic methodologies. Shouting down people you disagree with politically or otherwise just makes a lot of noise and prompts sound bites on the evening news. Saying that, I don’t suggest people should be passive, but instead seek out likeminded people and organizations and craft ideas to truly help — not solely incite and inflame.
In speaking with the younger folks, I see the passion in youth desiring change. What I don’t always see is full knowledge of the issues. Their understanding is often at an emotional level and not necessarily fact-filled, as a frequent response is “well, I heard this” or “saw this or that.” When pressed, superficiality is often apparent.
With no desire to embarrass for not grasping the depth of the subject matter, I usually say, “Let’s pick this conversation up another time.” Usually, the subject matter is not brought back up, but it seems a new norm to have multiple issues and causes that our young folks focus on. Or perhaps it is a lack of focus.
My focus — my passion — is about hunger. Not only work in an industry that helps the situation, but my money and attention are focused on that cause. In my church, the food pantry ministry is the largest single, itemized contribution to which I give time and money. So while I realize there are a zillion-and-one causes in the world, I concentrate on one that not only can I speak about, but actually, also, do something to help.
While solving all the world’s issues by the younger generation seems noble, it is actually doing a disservice by not focusing the needed attention on something they can actually affect. I would love to see less shouting and name calling of those they disagree with. I would love to see smart action on their part. All those causes not being solved, can only lead to frustration and inevitably disillusion. I would rather see us work together on singular issues where we can get closer to the solution we seek. I, too, would love to push a button and fix everything, but this is not going to happen. The world is not a perfect place and never will be, but we can chip away at some of its problems one chip at a time. That is how we can all sculpt this world into the masterpiece we desire.