Young, passionate, and full of energy. While gray areas are recognized, she views the world mostly in black and white. That is, she has a clear moral standing and ethical responsibility towards, for example, our planet. She cannot understand why the rest of the world doesn’t get off its collective rump and do something about it. This passion fuels her many interests that connect people to land, food, and each other. She’s been warned to be cautious and wary of burn out. Let’s call her Linda.
I recognize I am an ageist. I have found myself discriminating against people younger than me on many occasions. I dismiss their carelessness or thoughtlessness because of their age. Someone close to me, when she reached 25 had some very careless assumptions about the world. When I parroted this experience to someone I respected I was reminded me, “Well, she is young.” I didn’t mean to take that explanation as an excuse to stereotype and discriminate against age, but I did. In the years following, I found myself using age as an excuse for mistakes, assumptions, or misgivings. I recognized the folly in these assumptions, namely because I am not much older than those I defined as “young.” What gives me the authority to not assume the same level of experience?
So, when I met Linda, I was, first, taken aback by her responsibility. She is young, but responsible. She owns up to her mistakes, and clearly wants to do a good job at whatever task she’s been assigned. She interviewed well. Her references checked out. She has been wonderful to work with. And, for me, this is a humbling reminder of the folly of my discrimination.
On one hand, she reminds me of me a decade ago — taking jobs that suited my interests for one reason or another, finding my way, and seeing how they lined up with my passions. I am feeding off her energy, and I love it. I am reminded about the importance of cherishing youth and incorporating youthful voices. We all deserve respect because we are human and we share the same home. Youth, clearly, hasn’t been around as long, but youth see the world in a fresh light that us stodgy old folks forget about. (I say this lightly; I have experience, but I am not old.) Youth can be more innovative, willing to take risk, and simply try something new. The stodgy old folks get set in their ways and don’t often want to venture out of the house in favor of rote routines.
Moreover, this experience emphasizes the need for group wisdom. When we cherish and respect all the voices in the room… when we allow others to speak and share their thoughts with thoughtful dialogue, we all grow. We all get something out of the experience allowing our souls to evolve to that place of self actualization. The stodgy old folks can be given reprieve to innovate and the youthful babes can learn from the varied experiences of their elders. I am both humbled and energized by this reminder. Now, the lesson to learn, I believe, is to find ways to integrate, better, these intergenerational experiences so all can benefit from this diverse group wisdom. Truly, we do have the power to change our world — but first we must believe it, and then we must act on it. And, often, it’s youthful exuberance that gets that job done.