Sharing Between Generations
by Heather Buchan
I have a message to share about communicating across generations. Communication across generations is less about giving or seeking/taking advice and more about sharing. It’s about finding out how the pieces fit together, learning who/where the people are, and who they might become. That perhaps not coincidentally also helps us do the same for ourselves. I would like to encourage meetings and worship groups to actively seek opportunities for Friends of differing ages to mix. Perhaps they could even actively promote an activity to facilitate a wider range of activities beyond oral histories and technology help.
Think about what interests people. Are you a sports fan, a history buff, nature adventurer, an artist? Whatever floats your boat, it’s likely there are both older and younger Friends who share that interest and it might be really interesting to see how different generations approach the same topic. Are you a YAF (young adult Friend) just starting your independent life, maybe griping about finding an apartment or worried about car payments or establishing a career? You’ve finally “broken free" from the people who raised you, yet perhaps on occasion there was some good advice here and there. If only there was some way to find people in an advanced stage of life who can offer sage advice without worrying too much about the recipients, without necessarily following-up to see if they took that advice, or merely just listened. Some lessons you do have to learn on your own, but sometimes the path is easier if you rely on what others have experienced.
I love hearing elementary school kids talk about “when I was in 2nd grade” or telling a story from last week as if it was ages ago (especially if they are telling this to an older person, carefully explaining all the details as in case they need the context of whatever the situation, be it playground, living room, mode of transportation, etc.) Seeing things from a different perspective—like age—is a great asset.
Break the stereotypical images like “young people don’t listen,” “old people are stuck in their ways.” We as Friends are asked to seek that of God in all. Maybe you can see a hint of something God-worthy in that creepy old Friend on the facing bench who smells funny or makes you feel bad because she uses a walker and that reminds you of Uncle Irving who swore he’d die before he was reduced to such…. Perhaps once you realize maybe you overreacted, your toe is probably not broken by the kid who stomped on it running by on the way to… instead, you can look for something else. Why the hurry? Sure it’s a beautiful day, meeting or social hour or even first day school, whatever responsibilities tied this person to social conventions were now released and the “go” signal was received; it was ok to run. You were just an unfortunate accident. How did this young Friend respond? How did you respond? What common ground could the two of you possibly have? You know which of the two of you is most likely to initiate a conversation to get something started, even if it might start with the kid’s parents/caregivers.
So sadly, I offer no practical suggestions. This piece was merely to remind you of why this is important, spark your imaginations, and encourage people to consider how to go from idea to “let’s try this.” When you do come up with ideas, even if not implemented, please share them. Perhaps the NYYM en masse can help refine them into something workable.