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Point of View: Changing of the Guard

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Sometimes life’s events bring us an unexpected clarity, when a series of events combine to touch us in unexpected ways.

Mark and I are at the age where we’re starting to lose people we care about – friends and family alike – many of them gone far too young. People with which we share a cultural lexicon, folks who grew up in the same world that we did and share our worldview. In the last three years alone, we’ve lost three beautiful souls, including a writer friend, a neighbor and big fan of my work, and a beautiful young woman who was like a niece to us.

And many others in our inner circle are sick and hurting.

This last Saturday began with a tribute to a dear friend who is dying of cancer, a meeting that gave us a chance to share stories and love with him while he is still here with us. It was a welcome chance to see him and to tell him how much we cared for him, and for each of us to remind him of the great times we had together.

It was also surreal, a stark reminder that we will soon lose him forever. As his cancer advances, the man who we once knew is slowly disappearing, and no magic in the world will conjure him back.

A bright light will go out in the world, and there’s nothing we can do about it.

It was a humbling experience.

Later Saturday night, we hung out with a twenty-four-year-old friend of ours and two of her friends, all of them Gen Z (or Zillenials, as they called themselves).

We grabbed coffee and a snack at Starbucks, and talked candidly for a couple hours about life, jobs, politics and culture. We discussed the high cost of housing and an education, the careless disregard many corporations treat their employees with, and the looming 2024 election. All three are committed to voting, which warmed my heart.

This generation, like my own Gen X before it, has been tagged with apathy and not-caring, but to me that’s just a front. They care deeply, and are involved with the world, if in ways that are markedly different from their forebears. They are knowledgeable, intelligent, engaged and engaging, finding their way in a society that is stacked against them and determined to change it.

The three of them gave me hope for the future.

And then there’s Mark and I, firmly in the middle, feeling too old to try to create change, but not yet ready to be ushered off the stage.

A change is coming, and it won’t be without pain, but if our three young friends are any indication, it will change the world for the better.

We old(er) folks need to help them where we can, and learn from them once again what it is to hope, and to believe that change is possible. Indeed, that it’s inevitable.

Change always comes, and nothing ever stays the same.

So on this first day of a New Year, take heart. Reach out to folks outside your generation. And instead of dreading the bad things which may come, embrace the good that this generation and their siblings, the millennials, will do as they come of age in this long-needed changing of the guard.

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