My son the 20-something high school teacher and coach challenged me to a 100-yard foot race. I accepted, knowing I would lose, because that’s what dads do. I can pull a hamstring just thinking about running, so I told my wife to go to the finish line and get the oxygen ready. We took our starting positions, and I told him I wanted the Lynyrd Skynryd option. While he thought about it I took off, yelling “Gimme three steps!”
He was kind. Sure, he beat me like a drum. I won’t say by how much, but he made me a sandwich before I got to the finish line.
The real win for me was being asked to race. Of course, that’s what us losers say all the time! This time I mean it. When we have a chance to participate in anything with someone younger, related or not, it’s a good thing.
Our country recently has elevated its thought and language about diversity and inclusion. One area we forget about too often is the diversity that comes with age, and how important it is to reach across age groups in all directions to find different skill sets and certainly different perspectives.
It’s not as hard as we think. In our respective lives, we have the commonalities of careers, relationships and parenthood, to name just a few. These may not always be comfortable to discuss at first, so we can consider others. Sports, for example. Every generation loves or hates Tom Brady or the Yankees. I find it easy to talk about Marvel movies with young friends. They know the characters mostly from the films, while I read the original plotlines years ago from the comics. This leads to passionate conversations of absolutely nothing of consequence! Unless we consider friendship a consequence, that is.
At the recent Young Catholic Professionals annual conference, I was the oldest Vincentian present by at least 30 years. I was energized by the enthusiasm of our younger members for their faith, our Society’s impact on their lives, and their evangelizing spirit in discussing our works with others. If this is the future of the Society, we are in good hands and hearts.
A lot of younger adults think differently about volunteerism than older generations. They aren’t able to commit to the same number of service hours, at least not as performed in weekly meetings over years. They tend to prefer service commitments made one day at a time. If the service was fulfilling for them, they do it again. Their friendships and volunteer service mirror their careers; they tend to be portable. What’s more lasting, fortunately, are their marriage and family vocations, and faith. All need to be nourished.
What an opportunity this presents for all of us “seasoned” Vincentians. Most of us have younger relatives, whom we can ask to join us. We may also have “Church friends” and other relationships with younger adults in our lives. They have been watching you, learning about what you consider to be important and the examples you provide – whether you know it or not. That’s how all of us grow into adulthood in every generation; by learning from the ones who have already travelled our roads.
Please don’t assume that because they are young they aren’t ready to get closer to God, or that they don’t want to serve the poor. The exact opposite may be true! In fact, a younger person with a good introduction to a concept, person or experience often becomes a lifelong believer! Why else would anyone still be a Cubs fan?
If we wait to recruit someone when they retire from their careers, all those past relationships and good experiences preempt a bit the ability to create new ones. Let’s work across generations to find new ways to serve, and new ways to communicate and share our faith that work for younger adults. Let’s work together to create and fan a spark, even if it doesn’t burn brightly right away.
We can show how every song the younger music fans listen to started with traditions laid down by Chuck Berry or the Beatles. In turn we can appreciate that some things are entirely new! We can argue who is better, Babe Ruth or Shohei Ohtani, Bill Russell or LeBron James. The answers don’t matter, really. What counts is the dialogue and the friendships that result.
Yours in Christ,