Saturday, January 17, 2009

Your's, Mine, or Our's?

This morning as I watched a bit of Barak Obama's historical train ride to the Capital, and listened to the pundits filling time, exchanging observations and generally jaw-jackin,'I was struck by two conflicting notions. The prevailing thought they presented was that for the first time in almost 40 years, many people feel the call to service. Further, they feel part of something bigger, much like young people in the late 60s and early 70s. Even this year's celebration of Martin Luther King's birthday is a call to community service with organizations actually doing everything from physical labor to providing workshops for undocumented workers to learn job resume skills or other valuable information.
One of the CNN pundits, an African American man who is about to turn 40, was very excited to see his generation finally stop complaining and start to actually move their asses and volunteer or, dare I say follow direction and be willing participants.
I was reminded of a conversation I recently had with a 30 something friend of mine who essentially told me that my generation had failed his. I kept my cool, but the combination of his arrogance and ignorance hit me like someone's bad breath. I was ready to gag. Maybe he was upset by the floundering economy, or his inability to find meaningful employment despite his graduate degrees and sharp intellect. If my generation did truly fail his, I was wondering how? In one sense, each fails the succeeding one in that the perfectibility of the human condition leaves much to do.
Now I certainly don't think it wise for one generation to compete with another like a reality show, because I know something that my younger friend does not: social change moves much slower than even we can imagine. AND, it does move. To illustrate this, I need go no further than a little ditty I saw on a former student's Facebook page. I hadn't heard this before, but it could likely be all over the internet for all I know. Perhaps a form of urban computer folklore. It goes someting like this: "Rosa Parks sat so that Martin Luther King could walk, so that Barack Obama could run, so that we could fly."
I can see now that what I must do is help those that have never marched against an unjust war or a brutal police department. Help those that have not been able to separate love of country from distrust of government. Help those that have never experienced the joy of teaching, or the excitement of insight, or the sound of music sinking into hearts and minds.
My generation won't be providing too many more opportunities to pick up the torch. We don't work that way. We just work.

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