Why youth culture shouldn’t involve discarding older generations…

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This post appeared on my facebook feed on Christmas week, and it struck a chord in me. This year, I officially no longer became a young person. I fell through the cracks as an unemployed ‘mature’ student. With the entering of a new decade, there are privileges that are taken away from you.

The other side is that part of the reason I left a church a few years ago, was that I felt totally redundant. There were ministries I’d been a part of since arriving in Edinburgh, and with people coming up from university I was pushed out of them to let the younger ones in. In one sense, as a person who has been a youth worker in some form or other for half my life now I totally agree with the encouragement of young people into roles of leadership. What I don’t like is that it can’t be intergenerational – that it has to be one generation or another at the helm.

I remember at 22, encouraging my friend to join a smallgroup. His mother turned to me during a conversation about studying the bible and learning more about God and said “well, when you get to my age there’s nothing new to learn about God”.

I found that so depressing. If I get to my 50s and find there’s nothing new to learn about God, then quite frankly I don’t see how there could be a God at all. What makes my God, Yahweh, God is the fact that He/She is so mysterious and ways are beyond our comprehension. As a mere human, there is much I’m able to do and understand and learn…but I’ll never know everything. That’s part of the journey of faith.

Then there are our mothers. Our ageing mothers. Aunts. Co-workers. Who bemoan the wrinkles from months, years and decades worth of laughter and smiles. Scars from children grown and birthed (and meals with friends & family enjoyed…!). Who feel they are too old to offer anything. Who are increasingly often written off, complained about and write themselves off as having nothing more to contribute…

Well, quite frankly….BOLLOCKS to that.

And I know it can be done.

Because there’s a lady who I won’t name  who has proven that I’m right. This lady was like the Mum/Gran to all at my church in Aberdeen. She made quilts for every baby and many of the students. She was one of the first people I met the first day I went there, and on introduction encouraged me to stay for student lunch in the hall downstairs (I’d forgotten I’d agreed to go to my friends’ church and so when they came to my door to drag me to the bus I was still in my pyjamas. I’d pulled my big baggy skater jeans over them and was still wearing the pants from the day before..so gross and embarrassing! so I felt very self-conscious and worried I was gatecrashing). She enticed me with her homemade chocolate cake and made me feel welcome. And over the years, I came to admire her. This lady was nearing 60 and jumped and bounced, she did children’s church as she loved kids. She came to steward at the youth festival, and rather than complain about the loudness of the music would stand at the back with earplugs in, dancing and singing away. She learned how to use poi from our student friend. And when she retired, she started learning how to play the guitar. I never heard her complaining she ‘looked old’ or moaning about diets and weight – something I hear all too often from so many women aged 25 and above. It is refreshing…and it’s how I want to be.

So Annie Lennox…and my retired friend who made me a quilt I still treasure many years later…thank you. I agree. No matter what age, we have something to contribute. And we have so much to learn from those with more life experience, and I so appreciate that, want to absorb all I can from you.

I want to keep encouraging young people…but I will fight for this not to be at the cost of discarding older generations.


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