Monday, June 27, 2011

Back of the Bus

We giggled holding hands on the bus in fourth grade. Our first dance was at the seventh grade sock-hop. In tenth grade, I surprised him with a kiss in the library. We said a rushed goodbye on graduation night. Lost contact until the ten-year reunion, both married with kids. At the twentieth, he sobbed, telling me of his divorce. The thirtieth, I unloaded the grief of my husband’s cancer. The fortieth coincided with our sixth anniversary and I felt like a kid again, holding his hand and dancing. Duty and habit led me to the fiftieth, without him, I left early.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Teach your children well

I live in something of a generational limbo. My birth and life experiences place me squarely with the Boomers. The 60s cultural upheaval — an unpopular war, home front riots and the bloody killing of national leaders — hovered over my school days. Fears of being drafted were driven by the very uncertain political landscape. Music seemed to be the net that drew us together, provided occasional escapes and now lingers in fond memories. Most of my friends were fawning (if not fainting) over the Beatles, Stones or the ever-present AM radio pop sounds. I was drawn to some of the fringe stuff, including a strange mix of FM radio with its new folk, acid rock and early country rock. Influences of delta blues and gospel filled my days, as well as of forerunners of punk and alt-whatever.
My growing up was also shaped by years in a conservative, if not strict fundamentalist, church family. In my later teen years I was drawn to the edges of the “Jesus People” movement. A summer working at a church connected camp led to more summers, and eventually I was “in the ministry.”  For over 30 years, I have worked in ministry roles, now in a more moderate main-line setting, and I’ve focused on coordinating and mentoring young adults. It began when I was “one of them” and has continued through numerous life stages and ages. Now I am older than most of the parents of the people I work with.  This work has afforded me something of a front row seat to observe the rapid shifts in young adult culture as I spend most of my waking hours with those in their 20s.
I’ve listened to employers, parents and others express frustrations over the problems of current young adults, including entitlement, self-esteem overload and generally not getting it. While I share many of the observations of traits that seem to mark the current young adult population, I generally have a somewhat different perspective.
The character of any young adult generation is determined more by cultural and social context than by masses of children rising up and proclaiming some new way of being.  Face it: each generation is shaped by those who went before. The weight of cultural happenings, parenting styles, educational systems and new technologies are interpreted and accessed, or not, by values. And those values will filter into what kids learn, eventually manifesting in how they live.  If one generation does not like what another is becoming (especially as they move into adulthood), they have waited too long to make a difference. Generations are shaped in the days of growing up. And generations reflect the values of those before them in a never-ending stream — not the lofty values spoken of when there’s an audience, but the lived the values that seep into lives and emerge in practice.
Those of my generation might benefit from understanding that not only has the world changed, it is on a path of ongoing rapid change.  To prepare young people to enter the adult world in a similar way to how we did it is bankrupt. That single-track, career-first, corporate loyalty world is long gone and highly unlikely to return. We have allowed or encouraged success, accomplishment and affluence to guide our lives for decades. My life among young adults reveals a shifting of some of essential life values. Community and relationships are beginning to drive choices as much as climbing the corporate ladder.
Whether the world has become smaller or flatter will be debated long into the future. But by spending my days — and often long days — within a world of twentysomethings, I find hope in their efforts to live life more holistically and realistically driven by deeper values than societal pressures. The best hope is that we will all gain an understanding of the times and a commitment to make the best of life in the moments we share across generations.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Not a Bad Start

A real kiss with a real girl. Not Mom, Grandma, or one of those Aunts I hardly know.

I wanted to get it right. You only get one first kiss. I mean, a guy could become a hero, or mess up and never live it down.

We were walking home together on Tuesday. My hands started sweating. Heck, everything was sweating. I wanted to run but stopped walking instead.


She turned. I lunged, making a smacking sound, almost missing her lips. She started to laugh, but smiled. We started walking again, silent.

Not a bad start for a third grader.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Let’s put this one to rest
I understand
That clichés endure
Codifying folk wisdom
To, usually, transcend
Time and circumstances

Yet I recoil when I hear one
That undermines
All which I believe
The very principle
That guides my life
And orders my days

But it would be feeble
To fight
To think
I could convince
The long gone
And unknown authors
To reconsider
For my convenience