Discretion

Discretion

Building Bridges #7

“You are sent as sheep among wolves. Be as wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.

It was summer 1984 in the middle of a long recession, I was young, idealistic, and convinced of the basic goodness of all those around me.  I often would stop to help change flat tires, pick up hitch-hikers, give food & water to the hungry.  I worked as a night clerk at a 24-hour convenience store on third shift while in college.  Yes, we had a few food fights, and long talks about girlfriends, life, cars, sports, customers, dogs, food, music, history, philosophy, religion, local police patrols, roommates, and what we wanted to do when we were no longer working at a convenience store while struggling through college.  All done a decade before the movie ‘Clerks’ was ever thought of.

My co-worker, an avid golfer, kept his clubs in the trunk of his super-clean stock 1967 Ford Fairlane.  It totally outclassed my shiny, red Chevette.  Often, during occasional bouts of boredom, he would get a driver out, spin around with his eyes closed, pointing with his club.  Stopping at random, he would tee up in front of the store, then drive the ball in the dark, in the middle of the night, in the direction of his random pointing.  Sometimes, we never heard where it hit or landed.  Sometimes, we did, and ran inside.  Sometimes, the Kroger’s workers diagonally across the street would scatter in alarm at the sudden arrival of a golf ball in their midst. Were we showing discretion?  Obviously not.  However, our customers showed just as much a lack of discretion.

Often, teenagers, their parents, local swing shift workers, cops, drug dealers, pimps, hookers, college students, drunks, and homeless people would wander in for bread, milk, lunch meat, toilet paper, coffee, conversation, more beer, rolling papers, cigarettes, panty hose, ice, sandwiches, conversation, or just warmth.  Some wouldn’t have enough money for even a sandwich or coffee.  Both my co-worker and I would chip in from our own meager pockets to make sure no one went hungry or without coffee.  We were often surprised what people were searching for.

One dealer, satisfied with a good night at the university up the street, left a baggie of pot on the counter as a tip, ‘On the house’, he said as he walked out after paying for some beer.  It was immediately flushed down the toilet by myself, much to the chagrin of my co-worker.  Were they showing discretion when they were falling over displays, changing clothes, spilling coffee & beer on themselves while drinking it before even getting up to the counter?  Were they showing discretion when they held us up at knife-point or gunpoint for drug money?  Obviously not.  However, neither did some of our other co-workers.

One co-worker, even after being warned about not using a metal holder for meat on the deli slicer, still held the meat in place with his hand.  While he was laughing & joking with us, I and a customer, watched in horror as he sliced the end of his thumb off with the meat, neatly stacked beneath the slicer.  The EMT’s later retrieved the end of his thumb on ice, but were unable to re-attach it.  Another co-worker went home one evening with roast beef in her hair.  It was still there when she returned in the morning.  Were they showing discretion?  Obviously not.

Despite the eye-popping experiences of working there, I still felt compelled to help people:  giving rides, sharing food, fixing flats & radiator hoses on the side of the road, until one day, many years later.  Working on a payroll system database snafu in the middle of the night with a co-worker, I left to get pizzas.  In addition to working at the same university up the street from the old convenience store, I had also just completed certification as a volunteer Red Cross Disaster Services Coordinator with several thousand volunteer hours under my belt on local & national disasters.

On the way back to work that night, I witnessed an automobile accident and stopped to help.  As prepared as I thought I was for any disaster, I ended up quickly being carjacked by the driver, (a parole violator I later discovered), in his haste to escape.  I memorized the route we took, turn by turn, thinking it would be my last trip, ever, especially given the carjacker’s warning.  Imagine my relief when I was finally instructed to pull over next to a house in an unfamiliar neighborhood, and the carjacker jumped out.

We are here to take care of each other.  If we don’t, who will?  Personally, I still think it’s worth the risk to continue reaching out, but not in the indiscriminate, naive way of my youth.  Never give cash, but help in kind: call AAA, towtrucks, police, medical assistance, food, water, grocery store/McDonald’s gift cards, socks, granola bars, toothpaste, toothbrushes, water bottles, directions to shelters, phone numbers for churches, food pantries, agencies that can provide assistance.  Remember the Samaritan:  pay it forward, or better yet: pay it ahead for someone else.  We still listen, care, help people make connections for urgent needs.  Be alert, aware of your surroundings, and humble.  If you aren’t genuine or sincere, most people can tell – so, don’t waste their’s, your’s, or anyone’s time in making yourself feel better.  If you don’t genuinely care what is happening to those around you, better get alone, think, ask yourself, meditate, and find out why.  Above all, have the presence of mind to know when to help.  This can be accomplished through meditation, prayer and simple observation.

We are charged to be aware of evil and those who would do evil to us.  We aren’t charged to be afraid of each other.  Even when others mean it for evil, the universe sometimes still intends it for good.  As much as we desire to believe the best of others around us, not everyone we encounter shares our same desire.  I am older, a little more experienced, hopefully a little wiser, and after some soul-searching many years ago, still helping others.  Don’t let fear or the meanness of our current economic or political climate or fear prevent us from reaching out to others.  At some point we have to live it, not just talk about it.  Let’s be careful out there.

 

Detours

Detours

Building Bridges #6

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”

– St. Paul

Living for more than a decade after the failure of my business, my first marriage, walking through some of the darkest times in my life, followed later by some of the brightest times of my life, I thought I knew where I was headed and what my life was going to be like for the next several years.  Man, did Life have a clue-by-four in store for me:  a little more than three months after remarrying, and looking forward to a vacation in Hawaii, I had a heart attack.

Two days after Christmas, at 2AM, my wife drove me to a local hospital where they promptly put me on a helicopter to a better-equipped facility.  The pain was excruciating.  In the shivering downdraft of the rotors, waiting to be loaded, I was just fighting to endure the pain.  An emergency heart cath found a 100% blockage of the left circumflex at the branch.  It was opened and a stent was placed as I watched the monitors while on the table in the cath lab.  A cardiac nurse in the ICU where I was staying afterwards said, ‘You’re lucky to be alive.  Not many people survive that’.  It finally hit me:  I could’ve died, again.

My first response was ‘Obviously, I must still be here for a reason:  I haven’t finished whatever it is I’m supposed to do.’  My second response was a little more ticked off:  ‘I was in good shape, training annually several years for half ironman triathlons including cycling, swimming, running, yoga.  Here I’d worked out for the last five years, ate right, lost a great deal of weight, kept it off,  and still ended up with a heart attack.  Genetics suck!’  My third response followed even more quickly after the second:  ‘Grateful at the gift of still being here.  Just what is it am I supposed to be doing?’

This wasn’t the first time I’d faced my own mortality.  Each time, in my own way of thinking, was a detour.  I wondered why I had to keep facing this over and over again – through freak, sudden, emergency surgeries, random crime, accidents, or the loss of friends and family.  Then I remembered:  death is a part of life.  We have absolutely no guarantees.  I already had accepted each day as a gift, not to be wasted, every day saying out loud: ‘Thank you for another day’.  Whether we literally face our own naked mortality out of rude awakenings, or through the more subtle daily grind and thousand cuts of life, all of us face our own mortality every day, acknowledged or not.

Each time, I had thought of each event as a detour.  In fact, what I had thought of as detours, in retrospect, turned out to be a path, pointing straight ahead.  I may or may not be able to continue with the physical nature of my job.  That’s for others to decide.  I will find something to do.  My boss shared just prior to my heart attack, “I can’t believe what you’ve had to go through.  It’s been a tough year.”

I replied, “Are you kidding?  This has been the best year of my life!  I bought a house, and married.  After what I’ve been through in my life, this is a piece of cake!  I’m just glad to be here”.  Incredulous, he laughed and shook his head.  Other co-workers joined in and we had a very interesting conversation.  The universe hears, and continues to bring people across my path: strangers, friends, family, neighbors.  It is doing surprising things.  It’s not all about me.  It never was.  Everything we do, experience, and endure we are to do without complaining or arguing, do our absolute best, and above all, do in love;  not in proud, self-righteous, ‘look-what-i’m-doing love’, ‘tough love’, or manipulative ‘what am i getting out of this’ kind of love,  but in a true, humble, giving, grateful, sharing kind of love.

Whenever I had made plans and assumptions about my life, the universe had other ideas.  As frustrating as my recovery from this heart attack has been, with, to date, 6 heart caths, 2 more stents, unusual response to nitrates, slow progress throughout a monitored cardiac rehab program, I find my life changes daily.  Even more so now, my focus is daily on being available, finding out what the universe wants me to do, doing it, and being content with it.  That, I believe, is the point.  Is your ‘Detour’ really a detour?  Better look into it.

“Do everything without complaining or arguing”

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart.”

“Do everything in love.”

If You Love Someone – Act Like It

If You Love Someone – Act Like It

Building Bridges #5

“if I don’t have love, I am nothing.”

‘What’s your problem?’, I asked, all those years ago.

‘What’s your problem?’, someone else asked me, not so many years ago.

‘Do you really love me?’, I continued.

‘Do you really love me?’, someone else continued, not so many years ago.

‘Yes!’ I/they answered.

‘Then act like it!’ I/they replied.

The words were stinging and bitter, both in saying them, then, later hearing those very same words come back at me.  They came unrestrained, choking, honest, hot, low, flat – and burned.  Neither I nor they wanted the words to burn.  We needed to know:  ‘Do you really love me?’.  All those years ago, someone I loved, deeply hurt me.  So lost in rage they were, that their words & actions hit me like a blunt object, leaving me gasping for breath.  I was stunned.

Not so many years ago, so lost was I, so lost in my own hurt, I spoke.  My words were direct, and just as damaging to someone else, someone who loved me.  When I heard someone else ask that very same question of me, at a later, completely different time & place, I knew.  I knew more than I knew my own name, that I wasn’t acting like I loved them.  I was humiliated, not by them, but by my own words.  I immediately acknowledged to them, on the spot without justification, my own failure.  Gratefully, I was forgiven. They were kind and understanding. A gift I’ve never forgotten. Presence of mind, awareness, humility, love:  what do these crucial, powerful ideas impact in our daily lives?  Everything!

Our words & actions are sometimes equal and sometimes not.  Those we love know better than ourselves when they don’t match up.  We are our own worst enemies.  Yet, those whom we love so much, who truly love us, the ones we’ve hurt, forgive us, and love us anyway.  They give us the freedom to do better.  Sometimes, if we’ve hurt someone enough times, through thoughtless, insensitive, lazy words or deeds, sometimes, they leave us, and never come back.  Sometimes, if we’ve been hurt enough times, we leave, and never come back, from friends, from work, from family, from spouses, from anything.

We don’t have to be angry, bitter, or hurt.  We also don’t have to silently and carefully lick our slights.  We don’t have to wait for the perfect opportunity to unload on someone else the blunt and damaging words in a single blow.  We, through our own apathetic sleepwalking, indifference, & assumptions in taking someone we love for granted, that their love is a given – through all of these thousand little cuts of indifference, we wear them down.

We never know when we will see those we love for the last time.  I’ve heard someone’s angry, raging, despairing words.  Unfortunately, they were the last words I ever heard from that person.  I have to live with that, never hearing their voice again.  We don’t show our love just by apologizing.  We show our love by taking the time to find out how others need to feel love and love them that way.  We show our love by changing and not doing the things that cause us to apologize in the first place.  It’s not just flowers and celebrations:  it’s paying attention, listening, hearing, touching, encouraging, sharing, giving, working.  We don’t quit until we get it right, and keep doing it.  Who do you love?  Who have you hurt?  Without love, we truly are, and have:  nothing.  If you love someone, ACT LIKE IT.

“Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

“evidence of spirituality is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. There are no laws against this.”

How Many Times Will It Take?

How Many Times Will It Take?

Building Bridges #4

“How many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

I really didn’t want to give this man another chance.  I had repeatedly been lied to and deliberately deceived, in a professional, public setting no less.  In working on a proposal, whenever working with this particular man, almost everything this man said whenever asked, inevitably turned out to be a lie, usually improvised on the spot.  I had grown accustomed to my BS detector maxing out every time he opened his mouth.

My team and I even tried to help the guy save some face on the project by saying:  “I know things are going to go wrong, things aren’t always going to work out according to plan.  Just man up and tell me before I find out after the fact.  Don’t lie to me.  Please treat myself, our team members, and yourself with some respect.”  Absolutely nothing I said or did made any difference, until one day.

I had known the man was overworked as a property manager, but didn’t think much of it.  We’re all overworked as a tough economy is turned into a mean economy every day by uncaring corporations, managers, and employers.  I expected him to be organized, He wasn’t.  I expected him to be on time, he wasn’t.  I expected him to be prepared, he wasn’t.  I expected him to do what he said he would do, he didn’t.  I expected him to be professional, he wasn’t.  After putting in several hundred hours of my own time on this particular project, I thought, “The least he could do was show up prepared”.  I expected him to get the right proposal out to the right vendors, he didn’t.  The vendors which weren’t selected were rightfully upset.

Finally, after another meeting, which this gentleman didn’t attend, and for which he did nothing he was contracted to do, I went, completely frustrated, to where I should have gone in the first place:  contemplation.  The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant immediately came to mind.  I was humiliated, while in contemplation, all of my failures and missteps as I had progressed through my career, immediately came to mind as my conscience was pricked.

I realized that previously on other teams, on other projects, the project managers allowed me to fail, make mistakes and take some missteps, but they never called me out publicly, nor humiliated me.  They took the time to show me where my projections were incorrect, or a better methodology could be applied.  They allowed me the freedom to make mistakes so I would learn.  And, learn, I did.  My first professional lesson 23 years ago, was particularly stinging:  I didn’t have to make someone else look bad, in order to look good.  I wasn’t trying to look good, but I was trying to come in on time and within budget, and was unhappily picking up the slack.

Unfortunately, now that I was the project manager, I was not extending the same grace to this man whom had lied & deceived me so many times, that had been extended to me. Realizing, I then went to the man who had lied to me so many times this year on this project.  I started the conversation with “How are things going?”.  I then found out, to my astonishment, the extent to which he was overworked:  5000 units for one property manager, 20 different properties and he was also being treated for and suffering from chest pain.  I was doubly crushed and humbled.  I hadn’t bothered to find out, until now.  Recovering from my own heart attack and 3 shiny new stents, I understood stress, work, overwork, and frustration.

The man was amazed that I actually cared about him as a person.  I immediately apologized to him.  From that day on, he never lied to me again, and we enjoy a good working relationship to this day.  I learned that in projecting my own high expectations of myself on to others is never a good idea.  Someone else’s effort, may just be their best shot, accept it while being encouraging.  Effort does count for a great deal.  In digging deeper, I also learned that I really need to extend grace to others in all parts of my life, not just in my personal life.  It is a given, and guaranteed, that I will need that same grace from others, on a daily basis, at home, at work, with my friends, wherever, in all areas of my life.

How many times will it take till we get it right?  How many times are we to forgive?  As many times as it takes.

 

Love is Closer Than We Think

Love is Closer Than We Think

Building Bridges #1

“Love stays close to the broken hearted and saves those whose spirits are crushed”

‘You Are A Poor Investment’, ‘I Didn’t Think You Could Do It’, ‘You Are A Disappointment’, ‘Damaged Goods’, ‘Social Liability’, ‘Different’, ‘Not One of Us’, ‘On Your Own’, ‘Maybe Next Time’, ‘Unteachable’, ‘Freak’, ‘Crazy’, ‘No One Will Ever Understand You’, ‘That’s Exactly What You Just Did’, ‘Your Services Are No Longer Required’, ‘Leave’, ‘Goodbye’: I have been crushed. I’ve been cut to the quick by sudden, unexpected, cutting, shredding words full of judgmental condemnation and rejection. I thought I was alone, expressing it in writing at that time:

What I Found
 
I sought The Mystical, beyond physical,
Alchemical, Transcendental;
All, I gave; Ultimately, Not shared.
A union declared, But left adrift,
Half, Tending the Share;
Half, Not willing to care.
Illness then came;
Hunger, longing, Despair;
No affection, nor tenderness,
No Support nor belief;
Instead politeness, detachment,
Cool ennui.
No sense of Home;
Left,
Bereft,
I found Myself,
Alone.
 
 

I wrote this many years ago in the process of losing literally everything. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Providence was there with me. When I had lost everything, my brothers, my honor, my self-respect, my safety, my company, my marriage at that time, my finances, my home, my car, my dog, my cat, my anger, my beloved books, my pride, my sanity, people I thought were my friends, many of them “religious”, and, for a while, even family. I lost everything that ever meant anything to me. I certainly was broken-hearted. Providence was always there. As I dug deeper into despair, it drew closer.

Three friends, none of them, not one, were religious, looked until they found me. In that moment of utter and complete failure, I discovered love was looking for me, even when I didn’t want to be found, even when I didn’t want anyone to care. All of my education, my knowledge, my skill, everything I’d ever been taught, nothing could prevent the crushing loss I’d known throughout my life. In that moment, losing everything, especially my pride, I found an odd thing: freedom.

I would never recommend discovering freedom the way I did to anyone. Love proceeded to heal the gaping emotional wounds from what I had thought of as a life of loss. I had come to believe by the time I had turned 34, that my life was determined by the constant pain in my life, and the level of that pain, both physical & emotional. It wasn’t easy, taking time, and hard work.

Imagine discovering, to my astonishment, that love then gave me: Peace, Joy, Contentment. It was particularly liberating, and still is. Anything good that is in my life today, has been given to me by love – my loved ones, my job, my home, life itself is precious, each day: a gift; even that, which others may intend as evil to us, is a gift, that, in our refusal to respond in kind, is turned into good, by the transforming power of love itself, by responding in love. Love is powerful, even in our darkest moments, when the worst words we’ve ever heard still come back to haunt us in the middle of the night.

Are you broken-hearted? Is your spirit crushed? Love is closer than you think.

“Love stays close to the broken hearted and saves those whose spirits are crushed”

Be Still

Be Still

Building Bridges #2

“Be still, and know…”

I have been blessed to have seen some of the most stunningly beautiful vistas on earth:  The Grand Canyon, The Red Rock area of Arizona, the beaches of the Atlantic Ocean & Caribbean Oceans from the tip of Cape Cod to St. Lucia, the Gulf of Mexico from Naples, FL all the way around to Pensacola and beyond to Galveston, TX, a great deal of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine, The Great Lakes, and many, many others.  Millions of us seek out these & numerous other sweeping vistas every year while on vacation.  We search for peace and quiet, away from the innumerable distractions we so willingly invite into our lives on a daily basis.

I was suddenly moved to silence by the awe of the Grand Canyon, at the edge, staring a mile deep to the Colorado River below,  14 miles & a thousand feet up across to the northern rim.  Later, hiking down an unmaintained trail 800 feet just below the rim, the silence stilled my spirit again as the noise of the crowd on the platform above me quickly disappeared into the immensity of the Canyon.  Finally later, once again, at the end of an unmaintained trail sitting quietly on the edge of the abyss, far from the noisy crowds, the silence and grandeur of the Grand Canyon moved me to humble stillness.

In each of these moments, while savoring the peaceful hush, moved to silent prayer, reflection & thankfulness, the quiet reveries evaporated quickly.  In seeking the quiet of Nature, the peacefulness around me was suddenly displaced, jarring my senses and spirit.

Whether the moments were broken by a cheerful ‘What are you doing?’, or a harried mother’s loud, scathing rebuke of ‘I’ve got a bad back, bad knees, am overweight & tired!  You don’t hear me complaining do you?’ to her sunburned, twinkie-munching children as she marched angrily on the paved Canyon Rim Trail with her husband, I was, in turn, surprised, annoyed, amused, humbled, then finally inspired. I remain inspired.

In trying to get away from everything, everything still manages to find us.  The simple act of being still, observing, looking, and above all, listening, quickly shifts our perspective.  No matter where we may find ourselves, whether it’s at work, home, play, vacation, alone, in a crowd, perhaps alone in a crowd, or, in silence, in pain, in joy, in mourning, in celebration, or in a disagreement, we already have ‘the peace that passes understanding’ by knowing Love.  All it takes is for us to be still.

In the midst of the chaos of life clamoring for our attention, everything from cell phones, children, customers, clients, the latest political/financial crises with ever-present televisions, to the boss’s insistent demands for the latest numbers, we have a choice:  To Be Still. Be Still. Rest, breathing deeply, listen to that still small voice – telling us:  ‘Be Still, and know...’  Puts a lot of things in perspective for us, doesn’t it?

Each day, for the next week, let’s challenge ourselves.  Before we check our email, turn on the television, check the news, weather, facebook, twitter or text messages: Be Still. Be aware of how much time we spend in thoughtful, reflective study and contemplation. Think about love.  Listen to and practice love.  This can be done silently throughout each day as we live our lives.  Watch for the difference it makes in our focus.

 

How much time will it take to be still and know?  I don’t know – haven’t got a clue.  It seems different every time.  When we don’t take time, it manages to get our attention and finds the time for us.  Do we really know love?  Are we still?  Do we feel its peace?  It already knows us.  Take the challenge for this week:  Let’s find out!

Bridging Generational Conflict

Bridging Generational Conflict

Building Bridges #3

A past article from  Relevant, has finally motivated me to write about what has affected me from time to time in my life, more so recently:  Angry rejection by some, but not all, of a fearful older generation.  (Originally written a week ago)  My thoughts are derived directly from my comments on that article.  Please read first if more context is sought.  Although it refers to generational conflict in many churches today, I believe this affects all facets of life in society and culture today and is directly relevant to many other issues facing us today, secular and otherwise.  Once again, these are just thoughts, journalling, almost, coming into sharper focus.  Deeper understanding and meaning are worth reaching for.

I agree with the premise about fear driving the control response by some of the older generations. I have long been disturbed by the open generational conflict that at times has become quite ugly. To be honest, I am one of those in-between representatives, who at 46, finds himself sandwiched in between the cautious, fearful older generation and the vigorous, enthusiastic younger generations who are accomplishing so much.

I would disagree with the ‘arrogance of youth’ which the author mentions. Some, perhaps are.  Most, in my experience, were not.  I have seen highly motivated, well-prepared, inspired, humble youth often crushed by the proud arrogance of the older generation, repeatedly. Yes, that proud, cultural arrogance may perhaps mask the older generation’s fear as a root cause.  It is more often than not expressed as proud, dismissive arrogance. Everything brought as a strength by anyone not part of the oldest generation is often needlessly rejected out of hand.  What is viewed as the ‘arrogance of youth’, is perhaps better labeled as ‘rejection’. Treat someone badly enough, rejecting their input often enough, and they won’t return.  Having been silenced, devalued, and shutdown repeatedly, why would they honestly be expected to return to those who have repeatedly treated them so poorly?  They have ‘shaken the dust from their feet’ and left, or worse, shown the door.  To our shame, this is seen daily in all facets of our society in a public, visceral way.  Even worse, it is encouraged and seen as a good thing by those doing it.

Teachers, mentors, students, and disciples all learn from each other through the process of teaching and learning. Those teaching & mentoring learn just as much from their students and source material as the students learn from them. It is an inspiring and challenging exchange based on trust that works both ways – from teacher to student and student to teacher. The direct analogy being from the older generations to the younger generations, and the younger generations to the older generations.

Respect and trust are two way streets. I do respect, honor, and trust the older generations and what they can teach. However, I see precious little in the way of love, respect, honor, or trust from the angry, fearful, arrogant older generations to the younger generations. Honestly admitting error and learning from it is part of maturity and leadership. Stubborn, angry, intolerant, arrogant refusal to admit any mistake from both the older and younger generations compounds the error, reinforcing rejection, disrespect, and distrust.

As I begin to move, in my personal life, from the position of an adult child to what may turn into becoming a caretaker of my parents, I still respect, honor, and trust them. They also, respect, honor, and trust my judgment in seeking my counsel as I answer their questions, sharing my knowledge and experience with them as they still seek to learn.  We usually manage to understand each other.  It is something that in some ways surprises me, but in others ways does not.  Love and respect tend to engender love and respect in reciprocation.  It also motivates me to work even harder to get whatever I am working on right.  Will I make mistakes?  Yes.  Have I made mistakes?  Yes.  Will I continue to do so?  Yes – but so will those both older and younger than I.  Gracious respect from all living generations to all living generations is required.

I pray and wish that others would learn from my own parents’ example.  We have & continue to admit our mistakes as we realize them, sometimes with a little loving prodding.  We try to learn from our mistakes through forgiveness looking forward, not back.  We don’t reject each other out of hand.  We enjoy a richer, deeper, more honest and rewarding relationship today because of it.  By definition, we are different.  We will not be the same, nor will we always make the same choices.  Our differences are what makes us stronger together.  Even though they may not make the same decisions or choices we have and continue to make, they trust we are as grounded in our daily walk as they are. We do so, boldly, walking as strangers through this strange land, in strange days, in a place no longer recognized by the generation that just might be leaving us all too quickly. It is no longer a familiar place for my parents. It is neither a better nor worse moment or place we find ourselves in today, as we strive to avoid romanticizing or idealizing a past that never existed.  We have not been given a spirit of Fear.

This is in essence a problem that is defined by differences, and fear of those differences.  Any attempts to cast one over another in this discussion as ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ forces, by definition, an adversarial approach.  This will breed division with resentment.  Mediation, understanding, respect, and humility by all living generationsfor all living generations can begin to bridge this gap.  Many other communities, countries and cultures do this extremely well.  Why can’t we?

Understanding, respect, and acknowledgment of each generations’ unique contributions will begin to allow the breach to be closed.  Civility and humility can be disarming.  The question is: will all affected be willing to seal the breach and work together?  Perhaps not.  If not, then refraining from denigration and condemnation would seem to be in order, replaced with blessing and honor if paths diverge.

I pray for more bridges to be built by all generations to each other, not angrily burned in fear or rejection by the generations before me or after me.  We need more bridge builders to each other, not bridge burners, or as my Grandmothers would say: ‘Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater’.