Witnessing Generations from 20/20 Hindsight

I love people watching. I am also a story teller. An exercise in creative writing for me is to people-watch on a train or in a waiting room and cast them in a miniseries in my mind. My grandmother started me on this path when I was only a child. When we would visit her, she and I would take long walks together and talk… and make up stories. One memorable day we found a feather on the sidewalk and began to make up a story about how the bird lost its feather. My idea was that he had packed for a vacation (probably since we were on vacation at the time) and that his suitcase had come open and his spare feathers had been dropped out of the sky. After discussing the matter, we decided to leave it where we found it in case the bird came back looking for it. I treasure that experience with my grandmother because I was her favorite. When I was much older I found out that she had a remarkable knack for making each one of us feel that she loved us the most.

Sitting in a doctor’s office waiting room I recently witnessed an old man pushing his wife in a wheel chair up to the registration window. In her seated position she was below the level of the reception desk and her voice could easily be heard by those nearby. It was not hard to hear that she was there for a pre-op consultation and I also knew from her date of birth that she was 86 years old. Her husband was frail, but doted on her like a hovering guardian angel. I didn’t have to imagine a story of the true love and concern that filled his heart. There was a time that I may not have picked them to star in my pretend performance in my brain because they were old. Perhaps now that I am older I see things differently. Someday I will be 86 and I hope someone in my life will care for me like that. I also wanted to make up a never ending story for this couple who should be rewarded with uncountable blessings and a much longer and healthy life together.

When I see people react to generational difference in the workplace, on the street, or on social media I don’t see many people writing positive stories for people that are different from themselves. Older generations are discounted as being worn out, useless and in the way. Youth has its advantages, but nobody ever writes a script for them that they would agree to play. As a brash and know-it-all kid, I remember wanting somebody… anybody… to listen to me and give me my due. Later I forgot how that felt when I became an egotistical ladder climber that had become much older but not very much wiser. If I could go back in time and talk to my 30 year old self, the conversation would begin with a swift kick in the butt as a wake-up call and then I would remind me that my grandmother would be so ashamed at how shortsighted I had become.

Perhaps the answer to busting generational myths is to intentionally force people with opposing viewpoints into a practical exercise that uses moderated role playing to wake up visions of the past and future that can be so fleeting. Or maybe it is something less organized like every individual making an attempt to visualize something that we can’t see because we let personal prejudices get in the way of our hindsight and foresight. What’s wrong with having a few bird-feathers-in-a-suitcase ideas occasionally?

Image credit: schan / 123RF Stock Photo