Generational Divides

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It occurred to me over the weekend that there is an interesting, and potentially necessary, dynamic that exists between people of different generations. With great frequency, I am noticing important moments when the wisdom that comes from having lived over half a century and experienced a range of life events, could be helpful to, but not necessarily appreciated by, young folks in the generation behind me. I’m not talking about tactical knowledge – calming a crying baby, signing up for health insurance, buying your first home…  Rather, the inner knowing of the truly important place to focus one’s attention.

When we are in our 20s and 30s, we have goals – getting a good paying, satisfying job; connecting with a loving life partner; securing housing; having a family…you get the picture. My observation is that as we get older, we shift from goals to desires. We yearn for meaningful personal and family relationships, gratifying work, opportunities to learn and be useful, and the ability to be seen and appreciated. We have (hopefully) grown to know ourselves as having something of value to offer to others and the world, and can see with exquisite clarity when a perspective that we have gained could be helpful to someone a few decades younger. And this is where it can get tricky. We cannot know what we cannot see and unfortunately the focus of the different generational lenses enhances some things and diminishes others -creating blindspots for us all. It is hard to grasp and appreciate information and perspective if we can’t see how it applies to our life – until it does.

Several years ago I took a course on how to use Excel spreadsheets. (and when I say several, I mean MANY). I use an Excel spreadsheet very infrequently, and as you might expect, I forgot most of what I learned in that course. So now, when I have a problem with one of those darn spreadsheets that I can’t fix, I send it to my daughter who fixes it in a minute. (Could I relearn how to do this, yes. Do I want to spend time learning it, no) I think this is a workable solution but she may think I’m kind of deficient for not knowing how to do something that is so common in her world and easy for her. She has always been gracious when I ask her this favor but I’m not there to see if she is doing a big eye roll. There is such a long list of these types of things that could give my children reason to talk amongst themselves about “what we are going to do about mom” – the inability to navigate the three remote controls needed to turn on a movie; not taking advantage of keyboard shortcuts; accidentally dropping the dog’s leash (and thus leaving him behind) during my morning walk and not realizing it for a block or so because I was chatting with my son on the phone – (I did that this morning). And then I see those moments when my children and their peers are spending a lot of time and energy on things that they feel are so important in their lives now, but I know aren’t really.

So I wonder to myself, is it possible to take a leap of faith (knowing I have blindspots) that someone from a different generation (in either direction) has something of value to share that may help me now or in the future? Can we find ways to walk gently with one another and listen with a sense of patience and appreciation? Sounds so much easier to me:-)

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