In the past I used Christmas to talk about my family, my career, or the news.
But now I’m approaching 70, rapidly. I’ve gained enough perspective to take a longer view, based on life experience.
The big lesson of my life is the need for forgiveness. Every generation makes mistakes. Understanding how we got here is the first step in figuring out where we’re going.
My grandparents were born at the turn of the 20th century. They learned cynicism, from the horrors of World War I, from the hypocrisy of Prohibition, and from the degradation of the Great Depression. They told their children to be better than they were, because the world was going to hell in a hand cart.
My parents’ generation won World War II. They sacrificed and it paid off. Their prize was the greatest prosperity the world had ever seen, homes and cars and college for the kids. They wanted those kids, my generation, to be like them.
Instead, we grew up horrified by the hypocrisy of Vietnam, by other hypocrisies, and became a bit like our grandparents. But when we dropped out, we learned harder lessons from drugs, from AIDS, and from a working world that only gave prosperity to those who would conform.
We taught our children, the Millennials, to conform. We gave them a host of reasons to be afraid, crack and fentanyl, guns, and homelessness. But living in your own room, on your phone, isn’t much of a life. Social distancing means growing old alone. What good is a full belly if you’re starving inside, safe but at what price?
I look at the children who should be my grandchildren and I finally get it. They’re going to make their own mistakes, every generation does. They’re going to recoil from their parents and go in another direction. I hope they can be less cynical than my grandparents, more forgiving than my parents, more willing to engage than my kids. They have the hardest job of any generation before them. They’re the ones who must find a way to get together and save human life on this planet, or as much of it as they can.
The kids we call Generation Z will either be the true Greatest Generation, or the last one. So, on this Christmas I pray, in my way, and I hope, as I can, and I promise to be more forgiving to younger people, and more encouraging to everyone next year.
There’s work to be done, and no one can do it alone.