I rarely just post other people’s articles here – there’s plenty of that elsewhere. But in our continuing conversation about generational dynamics, and particularly the recent talks we’ve been having about the forgotten GenXers, I want to highlight this article from Salon, entitled “Generation X gets really old: How Do Slackers Have a Midlife Crisis?”

Sara Scribner’s entire article is a must-read, especially as we consider what Xers bring into our congregations in terms of how they view life and what they’re experiencing. Consider the following:

The economic reality for most Xers is much harsher. According to this year’s Pew study, Xers lost 45 percent of their wealth during the Great Recession. More than a few experts suggest that Xers – finally buying their starter homes in their 30s — unwittingly helped inflate the real estate bubble. They certainly bore the brunt of the collapse.

So just around the time that we were on schedule to settle down, our midlife economic peak became the worst market failure since 1929. “Our entire life has been punctuated by economic disasters from the time we were born,” says Gregory Thomas. “At every major milestone there’s been an economic collapse. There is no rest for Generation X. There’s no time to sit back and think ‘Am I happy or not?’”

For many of us, who waited to prepare things just so before we started a family, the idea of waking up to family-and-career complacency and wondering how we lost track of our youthful dreams sounds like the luxury of a more secure generation.  David Byrne’s suburban lament “How did I get here?” has become the more practical “How can I pay my rent?” John Lennon’s love-struck refrain “It’s just like starting over” is, for many of us, not a romantic lark. It’s real life. And it’s a lot less fun.

“If anything,” says Wendy Fonarow, a social anthropologist and the author of the indie-rock chronicle ”Empire of Dirt,” “our generation is characterized by not hitting a wall of midlife crisis but having crises throughout.”

Yes… life HAS been a struggle. This article identifies these issues quite clearly. Sadly, of course, there’s still some negative commentary in the piece – by no less than generational expert Neil Howe himself:

 It’s about time, [Howe] says, for Xers to acknowledge limits and step up to the plate. “These Xers spending their lives with this sardonic view, never taking anything that’s happening in public at face value, but always to find the failing, that expresses a bigger problem with X — they are always outsiders,” he says. “These boomer CEOs say that they are maturing to the extent that they should be heading into leadership roles, but they simply don’t want to accept responsibility to the bigger community.“

What Howe misses here is that we WANT to step up. We WANT responsibility. We CARE DEEPLY about the bigger community. But we keep finding there’s no room from the Boomers above and we’re being pushed from the Millennials below. We are the Prince Charles of generations.

But…on the whole, this is a good article. No matter our generation, we should read it – and then consider how we minister to the GenXers in our congregations and encourage their roles as leaders (and make room for them too.)

And to GenX specifically, I say, Sara Scribner is right: “If we’re going to make the country a better place, more suited to our values, we need to do it ourselves.”

 

Pardon the interruption into what is obviously a really important conversation between Boomers and Millennials. Obvious, because in the last couple of weeks, there has been a flood of blog posts and articles about how Boomers need to rethink church to capture Millennials.

And yes, it’s important; every time a new generation of young adults comes up through the ranks, we wring our hands about their lack of interest and attendance. These ideas come around every 15 years or so, and with good reason. What keeps one generation interested doesn’t always attract another.

The difference this time is that the conversation is most clearly between Boomers (aged 53-70)* and their Millennial children (aged 9-30) but not involving the aging Silent generation (aged 71-88) or Generation X (aged 31-52).

And that’s a problem.

Now we don’t want to come off as complaining, but GenX is tired of being forgotten. We are tired of being disenfranchised. We are tired of being maligned. We are tired of being overshadowed.

It doesn’t help that there are so few of us – only 44 million Xers were born, compared to 78 million Boomers and 88 million Millennials.

It doesn’t help that no one could ever actually come up with a name for us – though eventually we wore the un-name “X” with pride.

It doesn’t help that the movies that defined us – The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, War Games, etc. painted us as inscrutable slackers and apathetic rule breakers.

It doesn’t help that we are a doing, not a talking generation, more likely to ‘just do it’ than discuss it.

It doesn’t help that many of us grew up as latchkey kids and learned early to fend for ourselves.

But we are adults now; in the public sphere, we invented Google and Amazon, we have made great improvements to electric cars and wind power, and we have excelled in politics, with one of our number currently serving as President of the United States. In our congregations, we’re ministers and religious educators and music professionals and lay leaders. We’re moving into positions of leadership – or trying to, anyway. We’re waiting for Boomers to let go and move into the equally important stewardship roles. But we’re worried; what if the Boomers only move on when Millennials are old enough to take over? What if we miss our chance?

Time_Magazine_Cover_Generation_XYou haven’t heard us complain. We don’t do that.

We watch, and much of the time we put our heads down and just do our own thing. We get things done – sure. We’re hard workers. We’re scrappy, innovative, inventive. A recent paper by Douglas Keene and Rita Handrich (written from a legal perspective) suggests that as we have aged and proven ourselves, attitudes have changed. But unlike Boomers and Millennials, we actually did have to work pretty hard to prove ourselves to not be grungy, cynical, apathetic losers but rather optimistic, savvy, ambitious, independent adults.

But we don’t complain out loud much.

Until now.

Until this recent rash of articles about Millennials and church, whose authors have acted as though GenX doesn’t even exist. (And don’t get me started on the Silent generation – sidelined by the GIs for not serving in World War II, the forgotten Korean War heroes, yet on the front lines of justice and civil rights – again, doing, not talking.)

GenXers are gathering in Facebook posts and email groups and Google chats, wondering how we became forgotten again. We’re worried that our Silent parents are being silenced again. We wonder if we’re really just supposed to take the Silents out for pie while the Boomers and Millennials rule the world.

Well no more.

The youngest members of our generation are in their early 30s – cresting from Young Adulthood into Adulthood, having families, starting careers, finding their feet. They need grounding. They need a strong foundation while the job market is still soft, while the economy still favors the 1%, while there is so much inequality and injustice. Older GenXers are tired of being assistants and vice-chairs; they’ve raised their kids and are ready to lead, ready to deepen spiritually, ready to try new things and innovate our governance, our social action, our stewardship, and our worship.

We are here.

There may not be many of us, but we are here. We have strength of will and an entrepreneurial spirit. We are perceptive and highly protective (sometimes too protective) of younger generations; we are equally protective of our parents, the Silents. We have leadership skills and spiritual insights and new ways to think about money and mission. We worship, we serve our communities, we build coalitions. We want to do when the spirit says do – putting our money where our mouth is, putting mission before mortgage, breathing into the depth and breadth of our faith.

We are here.

We want to be treated respectfully. We want to be valued for our abilities and knowledge. We want to be trusted.

We are here.

 

 

 

*I am using the generational divisions as defined by Strauss & Howe in their book Generations: The History of America’s Future from 1584 to 2069.

Many years ago, I worked with an intuitive woman named Coral, who was part astrologer, part therapist, part mirror. For the years we worked together, she held a mirror up for me to see parts of myself I couldn’t see, and couldn’t trust. Part of what made Coral so valuable was her unquestioning trust in her intuition; there were times when she would say something that was right on the money that surprised her after she said it – her own mind and heart led her to speak, and instead of filtering or thinking before she spoke, she just spoke. She trusted herself enough to know she was speaking from the heart. And she moved through her days trusting her intuition, living a full and rich life.

zaphodI have always admired that about Coral, always wanted to unquestioningly trust. But instead, I have this second mind that a friend calls “Zaphod” from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – this second mind worries, watches, considers, analyzes, and fears.

Mostly fears.

Fears being rejected, fears being hurt, fears being judged, devalued, scorned. My Zaphod Brain is anxious, envious, jealous, worried, nervous, and jerky. For years, I have longed to get rid of my Zaphod Brain, but I haven’t known how. I haven’t felt strong enough, old enough, daring enough, secure enough. It has kept me from speaking my mind, from living into my fullest self, from properly navigating relationships, from feeling free.

But something has shifted.

I’m not sure what it is; maybe some of it is having swallowed the red pill and seeing endless possibilities for serving the world and loving the expansive and infinite Divine. Some of it may be realizing that as I approach 50, I really do know a thing or two, and my seminary career has deepened my knowledge. I know some of it is my recent interactions with an old friend, whom I trust completely – “pre-certified trust” he calls it – and who encourages me to put my Zaphod Brain aside.

So in the last month, I have found myself doing things that are showing me what trusting myself is like: I’ve engaged a debate from antagonism through to a burgeoning friendship; I’ve conducted a discussion group where I realized I have theological knowledge despite believing I am not a theologian; I’ve called out an ex who was doing me emotional harm and haven’t backed down. I’ve stood on the side of what’s right over what’s convenient. I’ve stood on the side of love. I am speaking truth as I see it from the pulpit without apology.

Now for many people, these may seem like no-brainers. But my Zaphod Brain has been quite nervous, second guessing, sabotaging. Or at least has wanted to. It has long convinced me that there is only so much room, and stepping out means breaking the reasonable, much-needed protective barriers.

But what I have discovered is that the space has been there for a very long time.

I’m reminded of an early episode of the animated series Futurama, where the protagonist, Fry, needs a place to stay. His new best friend, a robot named Bender, invites him to stay at his apartment; of course, it’s tiny, with just enough room for a robot to power down. But when Fry gets a plant as a housewarming gift, he longs for some sunlight. Benders says “oh, there’s a window in the closet” and opens the door to a huge room – perfect for a human, wasted on a robot.

That’s me – that room has been there all along. Space for trust – in myself, in others. I am not pushing out through the protective barriers; for the first time, I am living into all the spaciousness of my mental, emotional, and spiritual capacity.

I am still surprised at it – and I’m sure my Zaphod Brain is freaking out as I write. But I can show my Zaphod Brain the big open spaces, the huge picture windows, and the magnificent view.

After the service Sunday, we had a small group conversation – what some congregations call a talkback but which Saratoga calls “church chat.” It was a lively discussion about the series of sermons I just wrapped up on God – over three weeks, I talked about the transcendent, the immanent, and the creating-creator aspects of the Divine as we see them in our principles and our hymns.

During the conversation, one member asked me “did you put process theology at the end on purpose?” The question was probably meant to tease out my own beliefs, which I addressed – yes, process theology clicks for me, and it feels like a broader idea of God that encompasses the transcendent and the immanent.

But I think there’s more to it than that. And I have been thinking about it a lot. There are many reasons I put this  relational, creative, dynamic God at the end of the series – and what I keep coming down to is that this image of God – this ever-expanding, ever-changing Divine energy/spirit/infinite all – doesn’t coerce us but rather entices us toward beauty and goodness. This creating-creator God embraces us in the family of humanity and shows us infinite possibility in every choice we make. This way of being in the world, with each other, as artists of time and space, as painters of beauty and truth, as sculptors of dignity and justice, is what we are each called to be at each moment.

This calling vibrates through the hallowed halls of our theological house. Our Unitarian, Universalist, and Unitarian-Universalist roots call us to choose, at each moment, a path toward goodness and healing, to create a community of well-being, to reach out.

This creator, creating, relational, dynamic God IS the God of Unitarian Universalism. This is the faith that calls us to action. This theology is how we make our way in the world. And we must make the choice, at every moment, to act. How will we act?

And more to the point, how will I act? What choices do I make? How am I an artist of creation, painting and weaving and sculpting my corner of the universe to make it more compassionate, beautiful, healing, just?

I put the God of process theology at the end of the series because we cannot just sit and sing and think about God. We have to do. We HAVE to take an active role. Life is not a spectator sport; we must all act in this participatory universe.

I am pretty sure I was not the only person headed for a pulpit this morning who let out an extra moan after hearing the verdict in the Zimmerman trial.

In the midst of weeping for the Martin family, for our young black men, and the failed justice system…and after a while weeping also for women, for immigrants, for students, for the poor, for the marginalized… somewhere in the midst of my uncontrollable weeping, I let out a moan, knowing I had a sermon that felt like half a loaf compared to the shock, anger, sorrow, and fear we were all facing. How could I stand up and talk about a loving, father-mother god, when God was not in heaven and all was wrong with the world? How could I present this hopeful, encouraging service when we were faced with such pain?

That is when Pat Humphrey’s song came to mind (song begins at 1:53)…

I began to sing to myself and slowly began to stop crying. I knew I could not let this travesty of justice go unmentioned, but I also knew I could not write an entirely new sermon at midnight on Saturday.

But I could do something: I wrote a new call to worship for this morning – one that acknowledges our pain, our frustration, and our need to come together for comfort, for peace, for space, for nourishment. I invited us all to not get stuck, but to keep on moving forward. And we sang. And then we moved on to the rest of the service, talking about the loving, transcendent God that is found in Unitarian Universalism.

Of the many lessons I have learned since entering seminary, the one that’s been most remarkable and meaningful is the lesson about being present to the present moment of a congregation. You can have everything perfectly planned, but if they are hurting, or if there is strife, or if something tragic has happened, you have to be present to that pain and address it in a way that comforts and encourages. People want space for their pain to be acknowledged – and they want something to both nourish and distract them for a bit. We can’t let our inner preacher silence our inner pastor.

Nor can we let our own pains get in the way. Last month, in the midst of a bizarre crisis that hit my village and my family, I was slated to preach on the virtues of theism and humanism; the week, however, was difficult, and in my pain, all I wanted to say was “God’s dead and people suck.” Of course, I didn’t… I found a path through my pain to provide a message that was both authentic to the situation I found myself in and was nourishing to the congregation I spoke to. I had to keep on moving forward.

And that’s the lesson. We can pause and honor our pain. We can weep out of anger, fear, frustration. We can feel paralyzed by injustice. And we can pause with others who feel as we do. But then we have to take that next step. We cannot, CANNOT let injustice and hate win. We have to keep on moving forward.

Whenever I encounter an article, photo album, site, or video I don’t have time or ability to view at the moment, I email the link to myself and shove them into a folder called “internet for later.” I always intend to go to the folder as soon as I can to see what I saved that day or week…but somehow it simply became a dumping ground.  Yesterday, I found myself with some time, so I decided to clean out the folder. And I found nearly 200 emails to myself. Some of them had articles that I had actually read, some had items I still need to hang on to, some had links that for the life of me I can’t figure out why I saved.

One of the links – found very recently – is to a site called Stuff Christian Culture Likes. The blogger, a former evangelical preacher’s kid, outlines in some great detail parts of this particular flavor of Christian culture. Some of it’s kinda fun, from the outside, to laugh at (like The Ungame). But much of what Stephanie Drury says points to the very thing Unitarian Universalists can’t abide: the need for certainty.

It hit me while reading Stephanie’s post on “Things that Edify“:

Edification is mentioned several times in the New Testament, basically saying we should do stuff that edifies ourselves and each other. It’s a lovely concept and Christians want to take it seriously. But the Bible doesn’t give a whole lot of specifics as to what is edifying and what isn’t. Christian culture wants to know exactly what that means, so they have filled in the blanks.

Over and over again, whether talking about social issues, church organizations, or family, she points to the need for certainty. They fill in the blanks so there is no unsurety, and all subsequent issues get measured against that created doctrine. Whether it’s blasphemy, homosexuality, money, or movies, there is such a need for certainty that certainty often overtakes reason.

And that is why we as UUs often have such a hard time. We value reason – some suggest it is our deity – but at the very least, we cherish our doubt, honor our ability to see many points of view, celebrate our plurality and variety, both in matters spiritual and cultural (although we’re more dogmatic than we’d like to admit in regards to our culture – but that’s a topic for another day). The point is, we are so strongly attuned to questioning, reasoning, debating, that we don’t know how to handle certainty – particularly when it goes against all reason.

I bring this up, because it is a failing on our part to not understand this mindset.

We know, as Kevin Smith wrote in his film Dogma, “you can change an idea; changing a belief is trickier” but we have a hard time recognizing that what we think are ideas are beliefs for others. We are so tied into following ideas to a logical conclusion, we can’t understand how people simply take things on faith. We dwell so easily in a sea of uncertainty, we can’t understand how some people drown in it.

In her presentation at General Assembly a few weeks ago, Ellen Cooper-Davis encouraged us to learn more about the cultures we find ourselves in, and learn how to speak to others about our own faith in the context of their faith. In a keynote at a St. Lawrence District Assembly a number of years ago, Fred Helio Garcia reminded us that we must be literate in both ideas and language – “words matter,” he said, because “those who control the words control the world.”

We must get better at approaching those who are swimming in the pool of certainty, not by chastising their lack of logic, but by showing them love beyond the pool – showing them the beautiful shores, glistening with hope and openness, showing them the gentle waves of compassion, showing them the rich waters of love and faith. We can’t do it by shoving them off the pier. We have to do it by meeting them where they are.

We can combat the sin of certainty and open minds and hearts to the awesome, expansive, inclusive, healing love that some call God, when we know what we’re saying and how it is perceived. Let us be loving and gentle to those whose certainties we are shaking.

As I completed the manuscript for my sermon entitled “God and Democracy” I realized that I write and speak more passionately as a Universalist than as a Unitarian. While my Unitarianism compels thought, my Universalism compels action.

I also know that my recent exposure to the Red Pill Brethren, as well as both Michael Tino’s Murray Lecture and Beth Ellen Cooper’s compelling presentation (“Occupy Your Faith”) further engaged my Universalism – that part of me that knows my power comes from my faith, is grounded in justice and compassion, that we are called to serve the family of humanity, to stand of the side of love, to make sure the smallest voice is heard, to do, to speak up, to act.

And so I delivered a sermon that was perhaps the most passionate sermon I’ve delivered, despite my feeling like death on a cracker. I demanded action of the congregation, but also of myself. As bad as I feel, I know I too have to be an active, willing participant in the lives around me. Who am I if I ask a congregation to serve the needs of those next door if I am unwilling to do it myself? Who am I to talk about mission and servant evangelism and the call of democracy as a call of faithful action if I am not going to act as well?

So my passion – my deep faith in a loving, benevolent God who, as Clarence Skinner remarks, “loves the universe, who hungers for fellowship, who is in and of and for the whole of life” – compels me to action, to be intimately and actively engaged with this amazing family of humanity.

Here we go. Are you ready? Am I ready?

I attended General Assembly in Louisville last week, and I’m still high off the buzz. (Those who follow me on Twitter or are Facebook friends got quite an eyeful, as I joined many of my fellow attendees live-blogging our experiences.) In a nutshell, it is a transformative experience; I was an offsite delegate two years ago, but nothing beats being in the same space as over 3000 fellow Unitarian Universalists, seeing familiar and unfamiliar faces, hearing amazing lectures and sermons, listening to and singing tremendous music, being inspired by casual interactions and intentional conversations. Oh, and the shopping; there is nothing like walking into the Exhibit Hall the first time – I wanted to buy all the things! (I limited my purchases to a few t-shirts, some books, and a nice pin, but it was difficult at best!) While I am still processing some of the things I experienced and lessons I learned, I do wish to share some of what I gleaned with you (in no particular order):

  • Ellen Cooper-Davis’s workshop called “Occupy Your Faith” was one of the single most inspiring events I attended. In this session, she talked about ways to make our faith real and active and welcoming. Like Occupy, she said, our faith isn’t anarchical; rather, it is immediate and active, not an idea with manifestos and declarations. To help us get out there just DOING our faith, she gave us some great advice, using the acronym EAST(e)R:
    • E – Educate; we should know our history and our theology, and we should be religiously and Biblically literate so that we can talk to others but also within our communities.
    • A – Articulation; we must talk about our faith, but talk about them in the language of the culture we find ourselves in – in other words, we don’t automatically have a universal translator, so we must consider what our common phrases mean to others.
    • S – Service; not just ‘write another check’ service, but on the ground, present service to those around us. Who is next door? How are they hurting, and can we help?
    • T – Transformation; we are a transformative faith, and we cannot continue to be complacent.
    • R – Relocation, Redistribution, Reconciliation; it is actually inconvenient to live out our faith fully. It requires stepping out of our comfort zone, going places that are uncomfortable, living out our faith moment by moment.

 

  • Friday. Eboo Patel. Inspiring, brilliant, thought-provoking. Just watch.

 

  • Saturday’s Service of the Living Tradition was amazing; the music was led by the gospel ensemble at All Souls Church in Tulsa, and I can tell you the place was on fire. Add to that Rev. Vanessa Southern’s inspiring sermon. Add to that the experience of sitting in the audience and watching people around me being ‘called forth from the congregation’ in recognition of achieving ministerial fellowship or credentialing as a religious educator or music leader. Three of my friends from Union Theological Seminary walked, as did Schenectady’s Director of Religious Education, Melissa MacKinnon. What joy to see these leaders emerge from our ranks!

 

  • Sunday’s service was equally amazing; Rev. Dr. Bill Schultz preached an extraordinary sermon. He reminded us that we are fragile, but out of our fragility comes gratitude and trust – and we must thus act morally. I can’t do his words justice (they brought many of us to tears); go and listen. (Also, Meredith Lukow tweeted this:

“Blue Boat Home is like the Freebird of Unitarian Universalism.” – H. Roberts

…which led to a Twitter explosion of “FREEBIRD!” when we sang it during the service (and there is nothing like thousands singing with one voice a beloved song like that).

  • Youth! So many young people were there, so excited about being at GA but more importantly, about being Unitarian Universalist. These young people love our faith – we’re in good hands. I encourage you to look at the work the youth caucuses are doing, including campus ministry; I wasn’t able to attend the session on campus ministry, as it was during my own presentation, but there’s a real opportunity for us right up the street, and there are good materials to help make it happen.

 

  • Because I wasn’t sent as a delegate on behalf of my congregation, I didn’t attend many of the plenary sessions (where the business of the Association is conducted). However, that time was spent talking to people, hearing stories, learning about organizations like ARE (Allies for Racial Equity) and the Ministry for Earth. I ran into Rev. Sam Trumbore from FUUSA about a dozen times (who signed my copy of his new book during one of our encounters), but also had the opportunity to finally meet in person Rev. Erik Walker Wikstrom, who – in addition to having written the beautiful book Simply Pray – was my spiritual director the year I decided to attend seminary. It was nice to finally give him a hug of thanks for being part of my journey.

 

  • Though personally disappointed in the outcome of the moderator election, I know Jim Key will do a fine job. Meanwhile, outgoing moderator Gini Courter absolutely WOWED the crowd with her final report. It’s worth the watch.

 

I have so many more memories and lessons learned – from the Murray Lecture (sponsored by NYSCU) to the various worship services I attended – from seeing old friends from my UU Musicians Network days to the crowd of Union students/alumnae closing down a bar. I got to see good friend Reggie Harris, and emma’s revolution, and Brother Sun perform. I got to make new friends, like KC Slack, Nicki Drumb, Craig Rubano, and Elie Kirkpatrick. And I got to hang out with Union friends Emily DeTar, Valerie Freseman, Ranwa Hammamy, Sara Goodman, and Annie Gonzalez. And and and and….the memories and lessons are countless, but since this is already long, I will close simply with this:

GO.

Go to a General Assembly before too long. Next year, it’s in Providence, RI. It’s transformative and amazing and exciting and eye-opening and exhausting. It is worth it.

Multiracial Hands Making a CircleI’ve been reading with interest a couple of the recent Berry Street Lectures – Paul Razor’s from 2009, and Fred Muir’s from 2012. They both explore what the future of Unitarian Universalism can be – from finding ways to embrace multiculturalism to shedding the negative impacts individualism and a polity founded in the dominant European-American culture.

They both offer sage advice and good ideas; Razor’s examination of race and UU culture especially is insightful and challenging. He prods us our of our comfort zone, suggesting “we cannot become a multi-cultural faith – subconsciously or otherwise – continue to treat a particular mono-cultural lens as normative.” Muir wants to shake us out of the ill-advised individualism that keeps us from building beloved community, reminding us that “individualism will not serve the greater good.”

My problem with both of these lectures is simply this: we keep talking about what we need to do without recognizing what is already happening. They talk about the status quo – that environment that has been shaped and led by the Silent and Boomer generations – and ignore what’s bubbling up from GenX and the Millennials.

For the under-50 crowd, individualism is anathema to the great connection and community they already experience in their cohorts. They long for spiritual, heart-led experiences in worship, and are finding ways of creating it (or seeking it elsewhere). They love what UUism means and lives radical inclusivity. They aren’t trying to figure out how to be a multi-cultural, inclusive, radically beloved community of spiritual seekers – they ARE. The problem is that while GenX and the Millennials are heading for the 19th hole, Boomer and Silent Gen leaders are still hunting for the fairway.

Maybe I’m giving too much credit to the younger generations – or not enough to the older generations. But if we want to be the religion of NOW, of “the future”, we need to look at what our under 50s are doing and WANT to do…and not consciously or subconsciously perpetuate the mono-cultural lens that we’ve been looking through.

What makes me hopeful is the greatness of our current seminarians. They are young, energized, spiritual, passionate, and eager to live TODAY into the promise of who we are. They aren’t looking at who we CAN be in the future. They are living the best of UUism in their daily lives…and will bring it to their pulpits.

The future is now. Let’s not keep them from living it.

 

Moments after two bombs went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon yesterday, my Twitter and Facebook feeds were filled with prayers and information (and, sadly, misinformation).

But a few moments after that, my feed began to fill up with the comforting words and image of Fred Rogers – in particular, this one:

 

After the initial draw of comfort, I began to wonder why I was seeing Mr. Rogers so much…. and then it hit me.

You see, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood premiered on PBS stations in 1968 – the year I turned 4. My generation did, literally, grow up with Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, Electric Company, and Zoom. These programs were created for MY generation; they weren’t leftovers like Captain Kangaroo or Romper Room (not to take anything away from those shows, but they weren’t created with my generation in mind). People who knew this new generation of kids was a little bit different and needed a little attention created these amazing shows for us.

Without realizing it, I think Fred Rogers in particular understood GenX; as I’ve previously written (and as Strauss & Howe point out), the Nomadic generations tend to be smaller, marginalized, mistrusted, overshadowed by the previous Idealist generations. It’s no wonder that films about us highlight our pragmatism in the face of unfairness (Pretty in Pink), our willingness to break rules in order to get ahead (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off), and our feelings of inadequacy (The Breakfast Club). We were a generation overshadowed by a huge cohort of noisy, eager Boomers… and we were growing up in a world that was crumbling around us without our really understanding (JFK/MLK/RFK/Malcolm X assassinations, Vietnam, Watergate, LA riots, Chicago DNC, etc.). We needed someone to tell us it was all going to be okay. We needed someone to value us just the way we were, just for who we were.

And there was Fred Rogers. As good and loving a man in real life as he was on television. I think we instinctively knew he was genuine; sure, as we got into our teens, there was something rather old fashioned about him that we mocked a little. But the truth of Fred Rogers is that when no one else did, he valued us. He answered every letter, and showed genuine care in public appearances. He spoke directly to us through the camera with a love that was palpable. He taught us to care for one another in a way that wasn’t dismissive or flashy.

And so now, in times of trouble and strife, my generation turns to Mr. Rogers.  He still makes us feel valued, safe, ready to take on the world: “You make each day a special day. You know how, by just your being you. There’s only one person in this whole world like you. And people can like you exactly as you are.”

Each day (after 1972) he’d end the program with a song I still remember all the words to:

It’s such a good feeling to know you’re alive.
It’s such a happy feeling: You’re growing inside.
And when you wake up ready to say,
“I think I’ll make a snappy new day.”
It’s such a good feeling, a very good feeling,
The feeling you know that I’ll be back,
When the day is new, and I’ll have more ideas for you.
And you’ll have things you’ll want to talk about.
I will too.

Thank you, Mr. Rogers.