Generational gaps and hopes

Published 9:00 pm Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Before I start on my main subject today, I want to ask a question. “Where did this Black Friday craziness come from?”

Black Friday is the Friday after Thanksgiving and, supposedly, the biggest shopping day in the entire year. It is a harbinger, an indicator, of the health or spirit of the upcoming Christmas spending spree. Sales from Black Friday’s transactions are quickly computed and reported so that we may, either, feel optimistic about the economy or pessimistic.

I think I understand sales and marketing. It’s all about getting people into the stores, but I don’t understand how people get so excited about products that they get up at 3 a.m. and go line up at stores so that they can be the first to get some ridiculously, low-priced item that they don’t need, but really, really want. But, that’s my feeling and I guess the stores know the American population better than I do.

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At least it seems that they know what they are doing by all the crowds that were lined up at all the malls and stores. I am reminded of how we are led by the nose, so to speak, by marketers and media who appeal to our senses of getting “a deal.”

I hope your Thanksgiving holiday was as blessed as mine. Our family gathered at the homeplace and, once we started eating, we didn’t stop for 62 or 63 hours. You may think I am exaggerating, but I am not. If I had to live and eat on a Thanksgiving schedule, I would not be as big as a barn; you could fit a barn in me!

Eating, as great and as central as it is to the holiday experience, is not, though, the thing that I enjoy the most. It’s probably the same with you. It’s the fellowship around the table that is most pleasurable. Not during the meals, mind you; there’s too much serious business then. But after the eating is done, when all sit back and acknowledge that they have eaten too much. That’s when the relaxed talk begins.

I am thinking about one particular conversation this past week when the discussion revealed the generational gaps that naturally occur when the ages present ascend to 82 and descend to 2. That’s 80 years of difference and 80 years of difference in today’s quickly changing times can be an eon or two.

It doesn’t take long for the gaps to appear. One of the largest and most evident of gaps is one of technology. The 80-year-old today actually remembers horses and buggies, not that they were prevalent in their youth. Model-T cars and trucks had become the staples of transportation, but horses and buggies were still around. The 2-year-old, although not thinking about transportation at their young age currently, will never understand a horse and buggy.

There is the same sort of disconnect with communication. The 80-year-old was raised in a world where the greatest way to communicate was face to face. If one had something to say to another, there had to be a meeting of the bodies or at least a loud holler from one porch to another.

Telephones were available, but not really affordable or universal. Talking to another person meant that there was physical contact that involved seeing, speaking and hearing. It took time and effort.

Nowadays, it doesn’t take nearly as much time or effort. The generational gap rears its head with a value judgment.

The young say, “That’s progress. We don’t have the time to physically see and talk and hear anymore. We’re too busy, but at least I can text someone and let them know that I am thinking about them.” I think they have a point.

The older folks have their point to make, too.

“What does it show about a relationship where one is too busy to see and talk and hear face to face? Can a lifelong relationship of family and friendship be formed by a typed message on a cell phone?” Good questions.

As I sat and observed the conversation from one end of the table to the other, I realized that I was in the middle. The older were at one end, while the younger had congregated at the other. I think I understand both ends of the table better than they understand each other.

I also know that, one day by God’s grace, I will move to the end where the 80-year-old sits. Like at our Thanksgiving, I hope I will get the chance to look down the table to the end where a great-grandson or granddaughter may sit. At that time I will probably not understand him or her and the same will go for them. They won’t understand me, either.

I just hope that I will be healthy enough to enjoy that day. I also hope that we will have a homeplace to where we may gather. I pray that it won’t be a Thanksgiving where we gather around some 72-inch video screen and laugh and talk with each other by way of cable. I hope that we won’t have just finished a menu of artificial turkey and dressing and that there will still be collard greens.

And I hope that between the two ends of the table will be my daughter and her husband. Their heads will be turning back and forth (like a tennis match) from me to their grandchildren. They will be patient with both ends of the table. They will allow me to reminisce or remember my good, old days. Perhaps, they might even take my side every now and then about how good it was. I hope there will be just as much love around that table as the one I enjoyed just a few days ago.

I hope you know that feeling, too. And that you will join with me as praise God from Whom all blessings, particularly those of home and hearth, flow.