I've noticed a disturbing trend on social media of late.
As we discuss (and I use that word loosely, since we have almost completely lost the art of civil discourse) various topics, opinions, current events, on and around social media, huge sections of our populations are being disparaged, mocked, stereotyped, dismissed. I don't want to lay them all out. They are endless. Suffice to say, they are rooted in "other" - those different from us. Some of these I don't even begin to feel adequate to address because my life is so far removed from their experience. I can be compassionate, I can learn from them, I can listen, and hopefully my world will get a little bigger because of what this dismissed group has to teach us - if we'll listen. We should listen.
But there is one I'd like to go out on a limb and speak to... How we speak to and about the Millennials in our lives.
I understand that every generation is critical of the generation that follows them, as well as the generation that precedes them. It seems to be almost the natural order of things.
Perhaps it seems worse to me right now because of social media and the overpowering need we have to type and post every thought/opinion that runs through our head - often without considering the ramifications of what we've said on the hearts and lives of others. (Here's a freebie - you don't have to pay for this one: We don't have to say everything we think. Also? Y'all should be exceedingly grateful that I don't. 😉 ) I see it every day - on personal posts, in comments, in news articles and "funny" videos - they're an easy target. And I'll give you - sometimes, they ARE an easy target. They are summarily dismissed when disagreed with, because Millennials. That's all the reason needed.
And perhaps it seems worse because I have a whole brood of Millennials that I love more than life itself.
Here's some of what I hear:
They need to be coddled.
They have no work ethic.
They're brash and opinionated.
And the tattoos? Good Lord! The tattoos!
And yes, this is true - of some of them.
Also true? Those things are true of many of us old farts too. And we've had waaaaaaay more years to figure this out and get over ourselves than they have.
Also? Also true? We raised these kids. So while we're wailing on them, let's remember that they are they way they are, in large part, because of our parenting strategies and the world WE created for them to live in.
Some of them are amazing.
My Millennials? As I hit publish at 8:00 a.m., three of my Millennials have already been at work 2 or 3 hours. They will do this 5-6 days a week. They open their stores, supervise other employees, manage crazy rush hours, smile and treat with respect some of the rudest, most entitled 50-somethings to ever ask for a cup of coffee and a scone. They do all of this without the help, encouragement, coddling or shoring up of a Baby Boomer. Two other of my Millennials are just arriving to work, but will work hard all day - again, just like you and I do. One is working hard to help the other finish up a Master's Degree without debt, the other will stay late almost every day (long after pay stops covering her work), grading papers, calling parents, decorating, doing paperwork, and a hundred other things we'll never know about. Three of them graduated from college without debt, working to help support themselves the entire time.
They pay their bills, they do not mooch off their parents, they vote, they pay taxes, they went and are still going to school. They grow and learn in their trades and careers.
Yes, they disagree with us.
Yes, they can be abrasive.
Yes, they often think we're out of touch.
Yes, they have kept us up all night, crazy with worry.
Yes, they make foolish, rash decisions.
Yes, they often follow a "career path" or plot their future very differently than the way we would want.
(I'd wager that many of us were guilty of these same things two (or three...or four) decades ago.)
And yes, they LOVE tattoos.
But Millennials - yours and mine - are engaging in their culture, learning the workings of their government, volunteering in record numbers, giving to charities and churches, fighting against injustice, loving in hard places, fostering, mentoring, adopting. They are funny and smart.
They will figure this out - with or without our help.
I believe they'll figure it out faster if they feel respected and heard by the generation preceding them... if they aren't disparaged at every turn because it's different than how we've always done it... if they feel respected and safe to come to us when they're ready to ask for help...if we work together.
I also believe we'll figure out a few things in that process as well. I've learned so much from my Millennials.
They're going to be feeding us with a spoon and tucking us into bed before it's all over...
Let's encourage them. Let's teach them. Let's learn from them.
Most of them, tattoos and all, are pretty awesome.
I'd love to hear what cool/challenging/ridiculously risky, but awesome thing YOUR Millennial is doing.