Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Cost of a Millennial Life...

 How I hate those moments, when life - the course of a life lived - hurls itself at me... Yesterday, a young man - I've known since he was 6 or 7 years old - took his own life. How I'll grapple with the event itself isn't why I'm writing this though, because there's something else nagging at me. I think young men (and women) like the one I mentioned are at risk from something that's going to be parsed and defined more often as time goes on. Some use the term "Millennials" to describe the current crop of young people between the ages of 16 to 30-ish...

Often labeled as a generation of concern by people labeled "Baby-Boomers," and the offspring of the  late 1970's to 1990's parental tree, Millennials are the cultural shift off shoot of an America transitioning through a myriad of social changes at the family level. The family unit changed drastically, with both parents working more and more, while child rearing began to shift toward an arm's length approach out of necessity. The family unit itself became even more nondescript as marital divorce became more acceptable - and in many instances, rightly so. Technology has lent an odd hand in all this, but more on that at another time...

The Millennial child gets a bad rap. Many in my age sphere lament how ill-focused and prepared young people are today. Yet, I can't help but think we don't take into consideration just how we've set Millennials up for failure? We somehow allowed the thinking that Millennials - like other generations before them - should be able to find their way as we have, and it's just idiotic...

This current world is so infinitely more complex than the one I, and those of my own generation, had to handle growing up that it borders on the absurd. It's overwhelming to take a glimpse at yourself, and try to fit how a child of the "Cold War" era would handle everything being thrown at today's young people. "WE" had both parent - divorce being a social "no-no" - and far less of what's going on  in the world pounded on us ever second of the day. Information technology was in its infancy, so there was kind of a layer of forgiveness built in. Today, a small criminal misstep can literally end a young person's future prospects in the blink of an eye. When I was young, you were more likely to get a ride home by a law enforcement officer for youthful indiscretions. No paperwork, just a stern talking to, and that uncomfortable - and unforgettable - time as the officer told your parents what you'd done... Today, everything a child does is documented and stored. It's available for anyone to see, with stale facts precluding any hint of becoming a better person later in life being left left out.

Yes, I'm more than a little alarmed at just how thinly prepared "Millennials" appear to be to take on life in an infinitely complex world. But all the problems aren't of their making, and the solution set has somehow alluded falling at the feet of those who've put them in this position...

If I could speak to the masses of Millennials, I'd tell them to set aside thoughts of trying to push through life on their own. The old line "It takes a village..." applies more now, than ever. The African proverb holds true through time. The Bible embraces this wisdom too:

"Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone?And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken..." - Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

It's simple enough, but how thinly Millennials consider history - and what can be learned from mankind's thousands of years of successes and failures - could very well be a tipping point for this generation. While current educational focus has been squarely set toward math and science to compete in the global marketplace, the lack of emphasis on history and reading - especially beyond 140 characters in length - leaves a vast pool of pool of untapped knowledge laid to waste in libraries and search engines. Millennial disdain for expanding their minds to broaden their base understanding of the world, drastically effects their ability to cohesively interact and excel with the community as a whole. They bring less to the table when wisdom is called for, and it limits their available solutions sets.

This world swallowed a young man I cherished. Overwhelmed by his circumstance, he didn't reach out to family and friends. But let's be clear, his life's end falls on my, and everyone else's shoulders who knew him. As I look back, the space between myself and this young man was far too broad. The sad thing is, as I look around me, the single point I can readily tie to him is a phone number, in a cell phone list hundreds of names long. The numbers in everyone's phone represent an instant epitaph of how minuscule and shrinking human interaction has become. I know I'm not the only one who's seen families sitting next to each other, and no one is speaking. They're all texting someone, or living their lives on some social media stream. There may be some who are satisfied that 140 characters on a small screen is interaction, and if you're one of them I feel sorry for you. If you are, you will remain outside the village we all so desperately need to survive...

So what's the cost of a Millennial's life? How much does it cost to reach out and help, because it's a price I, and everyone else fail to think worthy...