My in-laws are moving in. Within 24 hours, they will reside in our residence. The lives of the Davidsons and the Dales are about to take a giant leap in proximity and, hopefully, community. They’re not running from the law (anymore) or destitute and in need of a roof over their heads. They’re moving because we all want to be near each other. They’re selling their Floridian home of 12 years, leaving all of their furniture in storage, and shacking up with the most chaotic incarnation of the Justice League yet.
And I couldn’t be more excited about it.
We have become far too sectioned-off and segmented from each other as a culture. We are adept at living nearly completely disentangled lives. I’ve already written on how a life so removed from human interaction can have incredibly negative effects on online dialogue and debate, but our issues with impersonal comments and online wars stem from a far deeper place than just a convenient forum for anonymity.
The more pressing issue is that we live and act like we don’t need anyone else. For anything. Neither their input, nor their outlook. They don’t have anything to offer and we’ve lost the ability to receive. We think that who we are now and what we know at this moment is enough. We think “they” just don’t get it. It’s pervasive, it’s destructive, and it’s not just this generation. Every generation does it, as far as I can tell.
The whippersnappers think the old folks are uninformed. The “greatest generation” thinks the hooligans are undisciplined. Everyone in between thinks everyone outside their parameters is wrong somehow.
The thing is, they are! Uninformed, undisciplined, uneducated, underprivileged, over-taxed. All true in some form or another. However, that should never lead us to the conclusion that we can write each other off. On the contrary, the various inadequacies of each generation should reinforce in us the desire to band together and gain strength. There are weak and strong in every demographic and we all need each other.
I remember the day I realized that maturity didn’t equate age. A car swerved into the parking spot we were waiting for, blinkers and all, so we waited to confront the perp. When he got out, we saw he was around 95-years-old. My grandpa, always the stickler, rolled his window down and said, “Hey, I was waiting for that spot.” The man stopped, twisted a fist at the corner of each eye, pouted out his bottom lip, and said, “Awwwww, too bad!”
It’s not that times don’t change and cause dissonance. Today, I scanned a recipe from a samples lady at the grocery store into my Evernote and I swear she shook her head at me and mentioned walking somewhere uphill both ways.
However, not counting folks like Pouty Old Parking Stealer (POPS), when generations see all the other ones as somehow less important and not as necessary, they cut themselves off from their lifelines, descendants, ancestors, caregivers, and history. We don’t exist in a vacuum. We’re either standing on the shoulders of giants, or holding up the next round of them. For most people, it’s both.
That’s why it’s so silly to discount any demographic. How juvenile for those in their teens and twenties to try to find themselves in the most ignorant of places, namely with those who are doing the same thing. How haughty–and hopeless–of older generations to think humanity hasn’t moved at least an inch forward since they handed over the reins.
I can think of very few lessons learned from my peers growing up, be it high school or college. Positive lessons, that is. I did figure out what not to be, so much so that I once found out that I was being used by a traveling speaker as an example of what not to do when in ministry. Off the bat, I think I learned cynicism, skepticism, and sarcasm from my peers, whilst they were gleaning ego, selfishness, and grandstanding from me.
On the other hand, the greatest examples and lessons in my entire life have come predominantly from my grandpa, who is 81 and is the masculine rock of my existence, and my mother, who lived and breathed unconditional love for me and is “of a certain age”(direct quote).
In fact, if I take stock of the things I consider to be foundational in my life, it’s a surprising list of professors.
- Any wit I have, I learned from my grandmother. Her hairdresser once asked, “If you could go on any cruise, which one would it be?” And my grandma, without a moment of delay, said, you guessed it, “Tom.”
- Those in-laws I mentioned, whom I’ve known for 16 years, are a stalwart example of perseverance and grace in the face of setbacks and unforeseen outcomes, among many other desirable traits.
- I’m learning how to give from my ten-year-old son, Christian, who never had a thing until we adopted him as a 7-year-old, yet will give away any and every toy to anyone who might benefit from it.
- I’m learning how to tell everyone I love them from my six-year-old daughter, Esther, who, as a man entered our house to check the levels of lead in the walls, ran up and yelled, full-throttle, “I LOVE YOU!!!
- I’m learning how to rely on my Father for everything from my 4-year-old son, Davey, who instinctively “makes every request known” (Phil 4:6). Ten-thousand times a day. Every day.
However, even though they have a lifetime of lessons to teach me, they’re also not perfect or normal. By any means.
- My grandpa rubs his right eye nearly raw when he talks about money.
- To cope with her intense nervousness in public, my mum implements humor. When the bagger at a grocery store asks if she wants paper or plastic, she often replies, “It doesn’t matter; I’m bi-sacks-ual.”
- My great-grandma Sophie is 101 and regularly complains about being old and feeling like she’s going to die at some point.
- My father-in-law will most likely spend the next few years following us around to turn off lights and wipe up coffee drops.
- My mother-in-law once had a clown at Macy’s comment, while honking his horn loudly, that they were wearing the same shoes.
- Christian is convinced that a t-rex is out to get him in his sleep.
- Esther thinks hiccups is pronounced “hookups”, which is tough in the Tinder and sexting culture. (“I love hookups, dad!”)
- Davey…well…he’s 4-years-old.
Bottom line, the “other” generations cannot thrive without our piece of the puzzle, but neither can we without theirs. We need each other. In ministry (more on that next month), in family, in the workplace, in passing conversations at the gas station. And, if we factor in the 2,000-year understanding of the communion of the saints, we should be able to gain us a deeper appreciation for the incredible range of demographics that helped us get where we are today.
My advice to you, as I transition from youthful exuberance to nose hairs and a slowed metabolism, is to learn from those a couple of generations older than you, because they’re probably more stable, and from those younger than you because they’re probably more innocent.