Let’s go back for a minute. Back to a time when playing Double Dutch barefoot in the middle of the street wasn’t germ warfare, going in the house when the street lights came on was the norm and talking on the phone outside was rude (phone booths had doors). Oh, and television, the 3 channels you did have, went off…literally. Once you heard the white noise, T.V. time was over.
Fast forward to a time called now. We’re bathing in hand sanitizer, if kids are outside (Playstation and Wii have dominated our homes) they dare not be in the middle of the street. You’re lucky if they come home, never mind street lights. NOT talking outside is rude because when someone calls, you’re supposed to be available. Now, you pay hundreds of dollars for hundreds of channels on your “Flat Screen” (Yes, the floor model is antiquated) watching only your top five or six.
You know what’s really cool about those dynamics; Generation X (born 1961-1980) is the ONLY generation that understands both of those worlds completely.
You see, we (Generation X) were born and raised in a time when family values were still a factor; technology was in its infancy and did not dominate our lives. Now, we’re entrenched in a world where technology rules and we can’t manage without it.
We’re sandwiched between the Millennial (Also known as Generation Y; born 1981-2000) and the Boomers (Born 1943-1960). The Millennials didn’t experience the depth of the world “that was” nor do they connect the relevance. Most of them are digital natives. Sure, they respect that it happened, but they don’t have the fondness of the memories. The Boomers not only reverence what was, but created it. They paved the way and made opportunities possible, stating to the world “we will not be without”. They embody the more simple times; not understanding the rushed, half hearted attempts at making things happen. Reluctantly setting up Facebook accounts and appalled at receiving an email invitation, but instead appreciating a simple “Hey man, I’d love to have you there” telephone call.
So what does that mean? It means the generation that was once considered obnoxious, disrespectful hip hop heads, are now the very crux of what was and what is.
We are bright, educated (formal and school of hard knocks-both have a place) that grew up with a consciousness of the struggle as well as a thirst for technology; making both eras very comfortable to embrace.
We also know a time when public education worked and you made lifelong friends with people from different neighborhoods. You may have been jumped by a few folks, but lived and went home. A time when not only did your family want to know how you did in school, so did your neighbor, the man at the corner store and the people at church.
Generation X is connected to the Millennials and the Boomers in a way that can bridge many gaps and unite us across boundaries and issues plaguing our communities. We understand the communication techniques of the generation coming behind us, making it possible to hear their words and in turn build relationships. We understand how to communicate with the Boomers, gaining wisdom and insight into what worked.
Now is the time that we must use our unique talents and skills to connect across generational boundaries for the good of our people. We have youth that need us, seniors that need us and we need each other. We must strategize the way our first generation college people did as they walked the halls of institutions of higher education. The time has come for us to muster up the courage we witnessed by our Black Panther folks. We must come together with each other and revisit the U-N-I-T-Y we once had and move the “C” from competition to complimentary.
After us, there won’t be any more three channel folks. We must come together with the tools of our young folks to mobilize, inform, learn and love. Don’t we, Generation X often wonder why the Boomers didn’t involve us more? Don’t we say in private they gave and paved the way, but may not have always told us how and why?
It’s our turn. We have the absolute pleasure to be on the planet with the Boomers and Millennials and connect three generations. Let’s reach back to move forward. We cannot afford to drop the baton. If we drop the baton, we will literally drop our past, our culture, ourselves. Generation X….Let’s GO!
(Bernadette Turner is executive director, Addison Behavioral Care.)