Friday, January 18, 2013

Living an inter-generational life

I touched on this briefly in an earlier post, but we live in a very age segregated world these days. I think it is one of the worst things to come out of modern schooling, and one that very few people discuss and comment on. We are conditioned from an early age to only interact with people our own age and stage of life. We herd children together in grades and give them very little chance to meet and befriend children of other ages. (Yes, I know I'm speaking in generalizations and that there are exceptions.) I've heard more than once complaints from mothers who arrange a play date for a child and have those children refuse to play with a younger brother or sister. "We're third graders. We can't play with little first graders." Or some comment along those lines is often overheard.

It is one of the things that I have really appreciated about homeschooling. I have loved watching my children have friends of all ages. The idea that they can only be friends with people their own age doesn't occur to them and more than once they have expressed exasperation with the age segregation mindset of their public schooled friends.

But this happens in our society more than just the minute gradations in grade level. There is also very little interaction between the larger generations. For the most part retired people interact with other retired people, empty-nesters interact with empty-nesters, and it goes on... thirty-somethings, newly marrieds, young singles. We even have terms for each of the groups. Boy have we all missed a lot of wonderful friendships and wisdom by doing this to ourselves.

Our society certainly doesn't make it easy for the generations to interact, either. The days of civic and volunteer organizations which allowed for a natural mixing; extended families living with or near each other; smaller churches where everyone knew each other don't exist so much anymore. At least not in urban areas where the majority of us live. Instead we have retirement communities, people too busy to volunteer or just socialize  together, and extremely large churches where you only get to know a fraction of the people... and often just those at your stage of life.

If we are too reach across to other generations, we need to be intentional about it, and the impetus belongs on everyone's shoulders. We miss out on so much if we only associate with people our own age. We lose the wisdom that the older generations has and we miss sharing the wisdom that we have gained. And we just miss out on meeting some really great people. And when you add children into the equation, the loss is even greater. Older people love children in ways that the generation who is currently parenting can't. They have an appreciation and an unconditional love that comes from a perspective gained over the years. And the older generation misses out on the energy and joy that children bring to life. We were all meant to live life together, not separated into little groups.

Why is this rattling around in my head right now? Because this afternoon I will be taking my children to the funeral of a really wonderful man. He was a volunteer for many, many years in our church's midweek program, helping to teach the first graders. The children love him and he loved the children. What was even better was watching those relationships happen outside of Wednesday afternoons. I love watching Jack with the children during coffee hour on Sundays. He was one of the few older church members who knew the names of many of the children and whom the children knew. He always greeted them and very often would receive a hug in return. It was a joy to watch and how it should be. I wish there were more relationships like that.

So my message to you is to get out of your comfort zone and make it a point to get to know someone of a different generation. If you are retired and don't know the names of more than a few children in your church, take it as a sign that you need to do something about that. If you have young children and they don't know any of the older generation, that's wrong and you need to do some introducing. If you have grown children and don't know any young mothers, make a date to bring some tea and have a chat. If you have young children and no mentors who have raised their children, start on a hunt to find some older women to fill that role.

Your life and the lives of the people you meet will be greater for the effort.

Pray for Brandi today.

This is Brandi. She is 6 years old. She lies in her crib and waits and waits and waits for someone to scoop her up and tell her how loved she is. Just imagine a grin on her face, her hair allowed to grow out. Imagine how transformed she will look when she is loved. Pray that she doesn't have to wait too much longer for her parents to find her.

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