Let’s build better bridges between generations

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Fellow boomers and beyond, a word, please.

While it can be fun and at times wickedly satisfying, criticizing younger generations for their self-centeredness does nobody any good. Even if they are immersed in a smartphone universe many of us oldsters can’t even begin to understand, our constant lectures and laments don’t seem to change a thing — except maybe increase the distance between younger and older, making effective communication impossible.

So what alternatives do we have? Well, for one, we can encourage the kids, and we use that term respectfully because their age is not their fault, to explore life outside their spheres of school and social networks. You know, dip their toes in real-world waters; make a difference. Volunteer at the food bank or pick up trash along the street or rake an elderly neighbor’s leaves. Get involved.

Getting involved, though, comes with some risk. Kids who try to stand on their own two feet and make up their own minds might follow paths we, definitely older and allegedly wiser, would not. Let’s take, for example, a 17-year-old leader at her high school.

If this leader led rallies for President Trump and against the global warming crowd, for example, who would damn her for being young and foolish, never mind disrespectful or downright wrong? Some would. Others would hold her up as a model of what young people traversing the bridge into adulthood should do, and agree with her or not, encourage her to continue the exploits that will take her places far beyond the fabricated worlds of cyberspace. This young lady, they might say, is going to really amount to something because she stands up for her convictions, even though some of those convictions over time might change.

There are big differences between generations. Experience pushes most folks in the general direction of wisdom. But wisdom with age is a promise that’s not always kept. At some point, when those of us who are older can take a less emotional and more cerebral view of how our words and actions will actually impact the youth we’re trying to influence, we might discover that we’ve erred in “putting them in their place.” We might have simply put ourselves in a place from which no good will flow.

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