Multigenerational Society

It is not uncommon for me to sit at table, perhaps drinking a cup of tea while most of the rest of the people at the table are drinking coffee, with a group of people. And it is not uncommon for me to be the youngest person in the group. Mind you, I’m, not that young, but I have a lot of friends who are older than I.

Regular members of our church are well aware of a table in our fellowship hall that is generally populated by old men after worship. There are a few women who occasionally sit at the table, but it is fairly rare for someone younger than I to join that particular group. They have been friends for a long time and most of them have coffee together at least once a week outside of the church. They know each other pretty well and know, for the most part which topics will bring nods of agreement and which will be controversial inside of their group. They know how each other think. They know how each other vote. They are good friends. And, from time to time, they allow me to join their conversation and listen to what they have to say to one another.

They are “been there, done that” kind of people. They have a lot of experience. They have had some successes and a few failures and they can see, from their experience, what will work and what will not. They are a source of wisdom.

One of the great blessings of my job is being able to join them, from time to time, and benefit from their experience and wisdom.

But their’s isn’t the only table where I’ve been welcomed.

I gather weekly around the table with colleagues who are about the same age as I. They might be a few years younger or a few years older, but we are all about the same age. Our kids are about the same age. We’ve all had decades of experience in the ministry and all of us have served more than one congregation over the course of our careers. We’ve served rural and urban churches and large and small churches. We are good friends and we know each other fairly well. We know our points of disagreement and our points of agreement. Sometimes we simply offer a listening ear and support to one another. Sometimes we offer prayer and study. Always we create space for the differences in our theologies and the practices of the churches we serve. We are colleagues and we are fortunate to have one another. I feel at home sitting around the table with these colleagues.

Several times each month I join a group of people as they prepare to begin their work day. We sit around a table and there is always coffee as well as other beverages served. There is usually fruit and another snack available as well. At this table I am always the oldest person. I could be the grandfather of some of the people who are there and most of them think of me as of the generation of their grandparents. In my particular case, my grandchildren are much younger than these adults, but these adults are younger than my children. There is a lot of laughter and joking at this table. We know each other and know some of our passions. We know how to spark a reaction from one another. Yesterday most of the people at the table had just completed a CrossFit training session. They were a bit stiff and sore from the intense work out. I commented that if they want to come to work all stiff and sore all they had to do was wait until they got to be my age. I don’t have to go to the gym to get stiff and sore. I wake up that way every morning. They laughed. They thanked me for coming and joining them. We are friends.

It is essential for me to have good contact with people of all ages in order to maintain balance in the work I do. I’ve read the books about generational theory. I know some of the cultural and experiential differences between people of other ages, but I know that we have a lot more in common than the things that divide us.

One of the young people I know is a woman who grew up in our church. Dr. Leah Georges is a professor at Crdighton University. She has spoken eloquently about the multi-generational workplace in her Ted-X talk. I recommend it to all who are interested in the topic. You can find it here:

She is just one of the impressive young people whose lives have crossed paths with mine. I’m continually impressed with the work of Dr. Sharlissa Moore, professor at James Madison College of Michigan State University. She is the author of a newly-newly-published book:

And an essay about impressive young people would be incomplete without mentioning our son, who is director of the Mount Vernon, Washington, library and the leader of a dramatic and innovative community project:

Most weeks I’m privileged to have a conversation with Dr. Luke Corwin, physics professor at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. He is a man with an impressive curriculum vita:

And there are others. Brothers who are both doctors were both real challenges when they were in conformation class. Dr. Greg Kelts is practicing in the Atlanta, Georgia area and his brother, Dr. Andrew Kelts is completing an internal medicine internship in Chicago.

One of the deep blessings of this life is that we are not all the same age. One of the sources of hope is that there are a lot of people who are younger than I who have a great depth of intelligence, and a passion for solving some of life’s biggest problems.

Now if I can only get that table of people who are younger than me and the table of those who are older than me together. . . Actually, I think they’d like each other.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!