Take A Look At My Life

 In Character, Culture, Duty, Fred's Blog, Millennials, Relationships, Service, Social Entrepreneurs, Transitions, Trust, Uncategorized

Listen to “Take A Look At My Life” by Fred Smith

 

I turned 73 in July – as did 3 million others born in 1946. That means I have started collecting all the good stuff owed to me – like deeper senior discounts, Medicare, full Social Security benefits, people giving me their seats on the subway and lifting my luggage into the overhead bins on planes. I’m the stereotypical Boomer in that I demonstrated against the Vietnam war (my draft number was actually #1), grew my hair long, owned and operated a coffee house in college, and demanded everything in my world be changed to accommodate me. I was strident, spoiled, obnoxious and shouted more than I listened. I can look back fondly on Woodstock and reminisce about Neil Young, Joe Cocker, and The Band. Was I there? No, but why spoil the effect? Every cause was mine. Every slight was intentional. I would have been perfectly suited for a Presidential campaign today. 

Not A Flattering Picture

I’ve been rereading the book Generations: The History of America’s Future by William Strauss and Neil Howe after seeing several posts on Facebook about the uneasy relationship among Millennials, religion, and politics. Having been born into the first wave of Boomers, I especially like the sections on the relationship between Boomers and Millennials. The description of Boomers as we age is not flattering. The authors see many of us being people who will “grow increasingly pompous, intolerant, uncompromising, snoopy and exacting of others…The major question – indeed, the one whose answer may decide whether Boomer leadership will end in triumph or tragedy – will hinge on this generation’s capacity to restrain (or let others restrain) its latent ruthlessness.” Ruthlessness? Not very comforting, is it? Sadly, I see evidence of it in my peers.  We do not want to turn loose of the power and we are fighting against the inevitable. While there is also the real possibility that many may take on the role of wisdom figures and self-sacrificing patriarchs, it is “just as easy to see these righteous Old Aquarians as the worst nightmare that could ever happen to the world.”

Clearly, we have choices and, hopefully, many of us will take the road of wisdom by investing in future generations. I do see numerous aging Boomers interested in the work of organizations like Praxis, Y Combinator, and Rising Tide Capital, helping to support and accelerate the missions of social entrepreneurs who are themselves heavily drawn from the Millennial generation. I find more Boomers who, like the aging Apostle Peter, understand their role no longer as fiery preachers but those who gently remind young believers of the qualities of a productive life. Knowing his time was short, Peter chose to rouse and awaken them – not infuriate and alienate them. He invested in them and their future. Paul’s challenge to Titus was to charge the elders in the new congregations to be temperate and not weaving around unpredictably, take the long view of life knowing they would soon be joining others in eternity, and make their passions productive and not controlling as they had been when young themselves. That is wisdom. That is also my charge now.

Significance Or Serving?

By many, they are thought to be our investment in accomplishing what we see as our unfinished work as radicals of another era. Strauss and Howe write, “Elderly Boomers will see in this generation (Millennials) an effective instrument for saving the world. Having themselves screamed against duty and discipline when young, Boomers will now demand duty and discipline from post adolescents. They will get both. In return old Boomers will shower youthful heroes and heroines with praise and reward and Millennials will be forever honored as a generation of civic achievers.”

I would encourage the Millennials to take advantage of the desire of aging Boomers to support their initiatives and projects – even if our motives are more than a bit self-serving. Perhaps we are more anxious to experience significance than serving. But, there are many Boomer donors who would love to find a way to be engaged with the exciting work of these Millennial entrepreneurs. It’s certainly true at The Gathering every year.

I wrote previously about my cross-country road trip conversations with my Millennial daughter, Haley. We discussed what the older can offer the young and what the younger generations can give to the old. There are many right answers, but we concluded that the old provide examples they can trust – examples of faithful, productive lives. And seeing the younger generation’s new ideas and perspectives in their ministries and businesses gives us hope. For that, they will find our support, encouragement, and gratitude.

 

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Showing 13 comments
  • Avatar
    Jack Modesett
    Reply

    Young people have exalted notions because they have not yet been humbled by life or learnt it’s necessary limitations. They would rather do noble deeds than useful ones. They overdo everything : they love too much, hate too much, and the same with everything else.
    Aristotle, 5th century BC

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Always have to quash and expose my originality, don’t you? Well, at least I am comforted that no one reads Aristotle anymore. “No great mind has ever existed without a touch of madness.”
      Aristotle

  • Avatar
    Tucker Blythe
    Reply

    This message hit him… i turned 68 in July. After decades of public service, I unexpectedly find myself in a holding pattern, uncertain of my purpose. Your reflections certainly echo my own thoughts of how to continue to joyfully invest in upcoming generations and avoid becoming a curmudgeon!! 🙂 “Press on..!”

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      You might be interested in “Transitions” by William Bridges and “How To Live Forever” by a marc Friedman. Both address the issue from different perspectives. Don’t think of it as stuck.

  • Avatar
    Scott Hillstrom
    Reply

    Fred, Does it come down to the truth that all we are and have has always belonged to God? Even the breath we breath? And if it does, are we willing for Him to have what’s His? Or do we regard it as our own? We have had our days on earth and other generations will have theirs. Should we be owning the shoestore or passing on God’s shoes and washing their feet?

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Clearly, this is not a yes or no answer! I do love what Peter said in Acts 13:36. “
      “Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his ancestors and his body decayed.” It gives me perspective.

  • Avatar
    Dr. David Galloway
    Reply

    I always enjoy the reflection on how generations interact and your comments here make me think.
    I remember Carol coming to speak to the Gathering, the original name of our Diocese of Texas cultural shift as Claude Payne took the helm. She brought the generational question to our discussions….great stuff, delivered in her disarming way.
    Neil Young’s picture and the lyrics bring to mind how central he was in my psyche, beginning with Buffalo Springfield urging us to take a look around. A few years back, my son did the pre concert for Neil at the Ascend Amphitheater in Nashville which allowed me to finally meet and talk with him. As prickly as I anticipated, we were able to talk about his stance of resistance to domination and championing liberty through the arts.The look at his photo and the remembrance of lyrics prompted me thinking of a more recent song Comes a Time, which perhaps this is.
    Thanks for helping me to think.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      “We were right
      we were giving
      That’s how we kept
      what we gave away.”

      Nice

  • Avatar
    Phil Smith
    Reply

    Such great words Fred. Hitting home for me as I continue to work with Haley and many others at HOPE who are a generation+ younger. They are life giving and inspiring. And perhaps for me it somehow wells up the subconscious hopes from my Woodstock era past.

    I also remember driving with you back from a field visit to Ikirezi (women’s essential oils initiative) in Rwanda when I was living/serving there with World Relief. You were there leading a Gathering visit. On the ride, you shared your learning/wisdom that success to significance wasn’t quite right, that for you the real call was to service not significance. Those words have stuck with me over the past 10 years since that brief encounter, and they ring true today.

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      Thank you, Phil. I have wondered how that essential oils project worked out given the logistic challenges for exporting the product. Yes, I still believe the search for significance is flawed. It’s not sinful – just short-sighted.

  • Avatar
    Keith Sparzak
    Reply

    Fred,

    Reading this a little late. But I still want to weigh in. The backdrop for this song by Young is told In the documentary Heart of Gold, Neil said:

    About that time when I wrote (“Heart of Gold”), and I was touring, I had also – just, you know, being a rich hippie for the first time – I had purchased a ranch, and I still live there today. And there was a couple living on it that were the caretakers, an old gentleman named Louis Avila and his wife Clara. And there was this old blue Jeep there, and Louis took me for a ride in this blue Jeep. He gets me up there on the top side of the place, and there’s this lake up there that fed all the pastures, and he says, “Well, tell me, how does a young man like yourself have enough money to buy a place like this?” And I said, “Well, just lucky, Louie, just real lucky.” And he said, “Well, that’s the darndest thing I ever heard.” And I wrote this song for him.

    ========

    Neil was neither lucky…nor unlucky. He was his own brand of entreprenuer–using his talent as a singer/songwriter to address the need of nation during that highly dysfunctional season of USA history, to put words to the tension folks were feeling and yet struggling to express in cogent terms of healing, rather than being devisive.

    We are in another dysfunctional season of USA history (that is, if there was ever of a time when dysfunction defined broadly wasn’t the norm). We need voices that speak this out and seek to heal and unite. We need young entrepreneurs who can look to the old men (and women) and old men who can ask honest questions of the young–sans judgmental spirits and say, “Whether you have grown up entitled or seriously tested by life already, don’t live lives of lost love spending your time, talents and treasures on things that get lost–its simply too great a cost.”

    May the Millenials living with holy purpose continue to respond in positive ways, and may the “old Boomers” affirm and assist their efforts!

    Rolling Home to You,

    Keith

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith
      Reply

      I almost hesitate to respond. What can I possibly add to this. I did know the story and it has stuck with me. Sign me up for the first meeting of old men/women and young women/men.

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