Young people deserve credit

Country Roads

When I began my career 50+ years ago, I was always “the kid.” If not the youngest, I was one of the youngest guys around.

One of the benefits of working in the radio industry is that many listeners had no idea how young I was. Acne was not visible through a microphone.

A couple of decades later, when I was named the advertising director for The Sioux City Journal at age 33, some of my older colleagues told me I was the youngest ad director in The Journal’s history. I failed to understand the significance of their remarks. At 33, I figured, I had made a few trips around the sun and had the scars to prove it.

Well, “the kid” thing diminished and in the months before I retired I was the oldest guy in the office. That went fast.

I thought of these things recently after a Wednesday morning men’s Bible study at our church. Six to ten of us gather at 6 a.m. each Wednesday for an informal study over a cup (or two or three) of coffee. Two of us are retired and the rest are under 40 and hardworking career men with wives and children.

We begin with 20-30 minutes of conversation and then study a portion of the Bible. The topics of conversation can be wide ranging but often focus on work, family and faith. Though I’ve been retired for more than four years now, I can still relate to the concerns of the younger men.

It doesn’t seem like that long ago I was working 60 and more hours a week to build my career and provide for my family. Though my goal was to serve God first, family second and career third those priorities were often inverted in real life.

My wife was a stay-at-home mom when our children were younger and that was a great help. Many folks today are two-career couples and that can add to the pressure of young parents.

On that recent Wednesday I heard the young men discuss concerns for their children, both physical and spiritual. I heard them speak about balancing their priorities as a follower of Jesus Christ, as a father and husband and as a career man.

These Golden Years I am supposed to be experiencing aren’t all they are cracked up to be but my heart went out to the younger men. I remember very well the same challenges I had faced a few decades ago.

One of the markers of advancing age, I have noticed, is complaining about the younger generations and how they behave differently than we did or do.

We even give names to the generations – Author Tom Brokaw identified the Greatest Generation. I am a Baby Boomer, my children are Generation X and Generation Y, and folks of the next generation are Millennials. I understand that subsequent generations are being called Gen Z, iGen and Centennials. I recently heard a Generation Xer give a tongue-in-cheek explanation on how to communicate with Millennials.

Older folks often speak of younger people’s lack of respect, lack of ambition, lack of manners, and lack of parenting skills. In reality, I haven’t seen that much difference in core behaviors. No generation is exempt from boneheads. Heaven knows my own Baby Boomers generation didn’t get it all right. Look at who’s running Washington!

My Rotary Club has nearly 180 members. I learned recently I am in the oldest two percent of the membership but I love working and visiting with the younger members. They have an energy and vision that comes with more difficulty when you are (much) older. They are concerned about the world around them and are willing to work to help others.

And so it is with the young men in my Wednesday morning Bible study. Certainly we see the world differently on some issues because we learned the world differently as we were growing up.

While these guys may be exceptional in some ways, I believe they reflect their generations well and in them I see excellent fathers, strong husbands and faithful men of God.

So, regarding this age and generations thing: the bottom line is that age doesn’t matter unless you’re a cheese.