This is a personal comment on people. Specifically, people I know and work with.
Every generation, the same absurd clichés get bruited about regarding younger generations. I grew up hearing my elders complain about “you kids” and how we were—collectively—lazy or irresponsible or lacked respect or had our priorities in the wrong place. And then you get older and if, like me, you read a little history, you discover that this is a constant, droning, brow-beating exercise in self-importance, fueled by a nascent fear of obsolescence. “They don’t build anything to last anymore.” And you get the impression that our forebears built things with the engineering of the great pyramids. And then you get to see some of these old constructs and can’t help but think, “well, they must have had an off day with this one.”
Then an emergency comes along, displacing the daily concerns of common expectations. Things are different. Actions take on meaning previously found only in movies or novels. The requirements of ingenuity, perseverance, discipline all become daily necessities. At which point, the clichés burn away and we see each other and how we are in our handling of the Current Crisis.
If we’re lucky, we find ourselves in company with good people. We discover that the casual and sometimes cruel off-the-cuff assessments of someone’s value have been wrong, meaningless, small-minded, or simply thoughtless. And if we’re very lucky, we realize a new truth about each other. That in fact the things that inform what we call Community are not as rare or generationally locked as we might have believed.
I’d like to say here that I am privileged to know and work with Fine People. Things have turned topsy-turvy, “business as usual” is gone for the foreseeable future, and there are new requirements for taking care of each other. Daily, I work with people who are displaying all the personal care, courage, and competence one might imagine. Age matters not at all. We show up, we do what needs doing, we work, we fulfill an important function in our larger community, and we do it with humor and grace. (I should say, they do it with grace; I’m managing, but how well remains to be seen.) Despite my intentions, it seems I have fallen in with a bunch of Excellent Human Beings.
Which leads me to a different cliché, perhaps, which is: if these are examples of the kind of people who will carry us into the future, we’re going to be all right.
Personally, I’ve never held with the kind of carping one generation heaps on those coming up. I got enough of that when I was a kid and I knew it was unexamined intellectual laziness. The occasional disconnects of what is known and what is expected are amusing markers of change and mostly of progress. Underneath, as some like to put it, deep down, where it matters, the important stuff continues. Times like these, we get to see it, and have an opportunity to see things more clearly. We have a chance to appreciate others in ways we perhaps have not before.
So I would like to do that. To my coworkers, to my friends, to their children, and to those whose work and willingness will see us all through, my thanks. I feel privileged to know you all.