Thursday, October 29, 2015

Talkin' Bout My Generation

How are we judged as a generation?

My wife and I dined out the other night with our 20-month-old son, Cooper. We had a quiet dinner at Mike Ditka's restaurant in the suburbs. Cooper ate his share of beans, carrots, and he may have gotten a sample of the pot roast nachos we had for an appetizer. During this particular meal, Cooper was the MBOC (big man on campus) of the blue haired 4pm dinner crowd that young parenthood has thrust us into. The patrons around us spent more time looking at him than they did talking with each other. They valued having a youngster in the crowd...I think.

Toward the end of our dinner, an elderly gentleman approached our table to talk to us. He asked us how we enjoyed our meal and if our son got enough to eat. Pushing at least 80 years of age, my wife and I could not really figure out where he came from. He didn't seem to be dining at a particular table, nor was he Mike Ditka. He asked Cooper if he ate enough. When Cooper responded, "No," - the stock answer for most kids his age, the gentlemen pulled out his wallet. He peeled off two dollar bills and left them at the table for Cooper saying nothing more.

What an amazing gesture.

Or was it weird? Was it weird because people don't do that anymore or because people my age do not expect it, or don't appreciate how awesome it was?

A friend of mine used to visit his grandmother often. He would bring his wife each time and like clockwork, when it was time to part ways, grandma would pull him aside. She would hand him a 5 dollar bill like it was a winning lotto ticket advising, "Don't tell your wife I gave you this." That is to say, "I want you to have it to spend for yourself."

It was five dollars.

But that doesn't matter. There is a desire for people of an older generation to take care of each other and take care of us.  Those who lived during the Depression value community and practicality. My parents are more generous with me than they are with themselves. Same with my in-laws.

When one of my favorite colleagues retired four years ago his written advice to me was simple, "Good luck with all this- you are going to need it."

It's different now.

We live in an "adapt or perish society," and certainly the same could be said about our field of education. What are we missing as a generation? I feel like some in my age group want to skip steps in the process. They see other young leaders getting promoted and reaching the top quicker than previously imaginable- and they miss the steps of sacrifice, hard work, humility, and deference to our peers. I became a high school administrator at age 29. Two of my best friends became managers at their financial firm at 27. We can't apologize for those opportunities because we, too, are probably guilty from time to time. But we do have to live with the stereotypes of our peers and work to debunk them.

That said, we are motivated. We are certainly educated, albeit with loans to still pay. We are efficient and we are full of amazing ideas. We can iterate at lightning speed. Change doesn't scare us. "Historically, we've always done it that way," is not in our vocabulary.

The question becomes- how do we take all those amazing characterizations of our generation and put them to work? How can we work to take care of those around us, valuing both their experience and their generosity?

Can we value the process and inspire the change?

I vacation with those two best friends often. One night in Vegas, we spoke of our career choices and if we made the right respective calls. I am the oddball in the group for a variety of reasons, among those is undoubtedly my profession. My friend Ryan told me, "You know what Andrew, the worst decision you made was to be a teacher. I think you could have done anything you wanted to do. (He made sure to mention selling cars as an addendum to that statement). But the best decision you made was to be a teacher. We need more people like you to guide this next generation."

I had to sift through Ryan's statement a bit, but he meant it as a compliment in every sense. So maybe people are misjudging my generation and maybe, just maybe, we just have to sift through it a bit to find the positives. 

No stranger left me two dollars at the table that night, but a friend left me his two cents. Our task as a generation is to redefine ourselves and seek opportunities to help our kids- the next generation. 

1 comment:

  1. Love this Andrew. You not only made me think back to times I cherish, but you also reiterated that we all have to power to fill the shoes of those we looked up to and make the future generations feel the same way we do when we look back. :)