Generation to Generation
“And God’s mercy extends from generation to generation . . .” – Luke 1:50
At a conference I recently attended, I had the chance to be part of a seminar on intergenerational dynamics. We learned about the needs of various generations, whether “the greatest generation” in their 70s and 80s or Millenials in their teens and 20s. My favorite parts of the seminar were when we were given discussion topics and told to talk them over with a person sitting next to us. The man in the chair to my left was part of a generation very different from mine. He could remember the Great Depression, and was deployed overseas during World War II. Hearing his stories and thinking about how much the world has changed during his lifetime allowed me a glimpse into another era that we rarely get.
One of the questions we were asked in the seminar was to share with one another about the first gift we remember receiving that really “wowed” us. For me, the first thing that came to mind was the “Star Wars” Dagobah playset I got when I was four years old. His story was something else entirely. He told me about the bicycle he had so desperately wanted as a child, but which, because of the Depression, his parents could not afford. Year after year, on his birthday and at Christmas, he had hoped it would be there, but every year he was disappointed. Until finally, when he was in high school, there sat the shiny new bike under the Christmas tree. When I was in high school, I was dreaming of and fully expecting to get a car, not a bicycle. When I finally did get a car, I doubt I was nearly as grateful for it as he was for his bike.
By the end of the seminar, when we had time to discuss our conversations with the larger group, we found that we all had some important things in common. No matter what generation we were born into, we all relished this time of hearing another’s story and being heard. The stories we told one another revolved around simple things – family, friends, holidays, memories, faith – not high tech gadgetry or other new developments that can sometimes drive a wedge between older and younger generations. We all longed for genuine human connection, a universal need and desire. Take the time this week to form a connection with someone of a different generation. You can start by asking one of the questions we did: What is the first gift you received that “wowed” you? Who were your childhood heroes? What is the biggest change you have seen in the world in your lifetime? Or you can simply say, “Please tell me your story.” Both the listener and the storyteller will be blessed.
God of all generations, the world is constantly changing, and we find it hard to keep up. Whether we have our whole life ahead of us or have seen many generations come behind us, we all just want to love and be loved. Help us freely share our stories and take time to listen to the stories of others. As we hear them, give us the wisdom to know that they are all part of the beautiful story that you, God, are weaving together. Amen.-- Chaplain Stacy N. Sergent