I am privileged to share a birthday with my nephew Hunter. On this occasion when he turns eleven and I can no longer avoid saying I am in my late 40′s, we will sing our annual duet of Happy Birthday to Us!
As we do I find myself reflecting on how different his world is from mine. For him:
There was never a time without video games.
He has no conscious memory of what life is like without Facebook.
His Aunt Lorie (my wife) has always had cancer.
His world is all post 9/11.
I could go on . . . .
So much about generational differences and experiences leaves we older ones saying “Don’t mess with my handiwork!” Younger ones are tempted to say “Get out of my way, you’ve had it long enough!”
Instead, what we should all be saying is “What can I learn from you?”
I am astounded by what my many nephews and too few nieces teach me–not just what I once learned and then forgot, but what I would never have known had they not told me. Some of them are experts in flora and fauna. Another is a walking encyclopedia of U.S. presidents. Still another conquers technology challenges without breaking a sweat. Their budding expertise is matched by my own children who know more about social work, photography, youth ministry and social media than I ever will.
I do not need to match them. I need to bask in the wonder of what they know and celebrate the benefits.
And, if I let myself relax and enjoy each priceless moment I have with them, I can be their wise friend who provides loving guidance in the critical moments they are primed to hear it (and may I say this is an art form?).
As one committed to being a steward leader, I aspire to take these intergenerational relationships seriously–in my family, within my church, and in the marketplace. This is not because I wish to be relevant. Instead, I believe this is how a real legacy is built. The Psalmist writes, ” . . .show your mighty power to our children” (Psalm 90:16b). More often than not that power is shown through the faith of parents, aunts, uncles and significant adult mentors.
-mark l vincent