Being Twenty Something Right Now

Empathy for our young adult friends and children is in order. Imagine being them and trying to:

  • cultivate a sense of purpose
  • find a job that contributes to the common good, pays a livable wage, and comes with medical benefits
  • find an affordable place of your own to live
  • afford a car or other forms of reliable transportation
  • get out of debt
  • save some money each month
  • develop the self discipline and knowledge to smartly invest for future expenses
  • find a caring, loving, compatible partner with whom to be intimate
  • decide whether to marry and have children
  • decide whether to commit to a faith community, if so, finding a compelling one
  • contend with friends and acquaintances inauthentic, curated selves on-line
  • create a close circle of friends who aren’t so overwhelmed with all above that they have the energy and desire to spend time together
  • worry about growing social inequities and the fate of the natural world
  • cultivate the discipline to eat well, exercise, and maintain decent physical health
  • manage your anxieties about all of the above and maintain good mental health

In the context of a global pandemic about which so much is unknown. How bad will it get? When will it end? How should we “reopen”? What exactly will the “new normal” be?

This pandemic presents unique challenges to many twenty somethings, whom for whatever reasons, already struggle with anxiety, depression, and related mental health challenges.

Extra patience and kindness with our young adult friends and children are in order.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Mourning

Conventional wisdom is sometimes wrong, but when it comes to mourning, it’s correct. Everyone mourns differently, some inwardly and quietly, others with much more feeling. Some mourn briefly, others for extended lengths of time. There is no right way to mourn, the key is to respect everyone’s individual approach.

At the same time, the recent passing of Kobe Bryant, the other eight victims of the helicopter crash, and also Leila Janah, have me thinking more about death.

Intense grieving for the likes of Kobe and Leila makes perfect sense given their relative youth, 41 and 37 years old respectively. In that same spirit, one of the most sad passings I’ve ever observed was that of a friend’s 7 year-old son. We are understandably most saddened by people who do not get to experience the full arc of life.

And yet, Kobe, Leila, and my friend’s son left the world a better place. Leila, for example, founded a company that . . .

“. . . employs more than 2,900 people in Kenya, Uganda and India, creating data for companies around the world that need to test numerous artificial intelligence products, including self-driving cars and smart hardware. The company has helped more than 50,000 people lift themselves out of poverty and has become one of the largest employers in East Africa. . . .”

And as we’re learning, Kobe’s imprint was also large, most significantly off the court through his parenting, writing, and support for technology startups, young athletes, and women’s professional sports.

My friend’s son’s legacy was less public, but still profound, a lasting impact on his family, classmates, and community. Until cancer appeared in his blood, he was pure joy, a natural peacemaker.

To me, the saddest deaths are those of people who do not leave even some small sliver of the world better off. People whose words and actions didn’t console, inspire kindness, or help others be more humane. Those are the passings we should grieve the most.

 

On the Greatest Virtue

Juliet Macur, the author of this recent NYT article, in an unrelated interview was asked, “What is your favorite virtue?” “Kindness,” she answered, and then added:

“My earliest memory of it is my mother taking the train to Manhattan from our house in New Jersey, toting three freshly baked loaves of bread. She would leave each loaf next to a homeless person sleeping on the floor of Penn Station.”

I sent an email to a student of mine this week to see if there was anything I could do to support her in the last stages of her teaching certificate work. From Central America, a wife and mother, Rosa is struggling to complete the high-stakes performance assessment she has to pass.

She wrote back:

“I think the only reason I will end the program is thanks to you all. Every time I was about to break there was one of you to hug me, encourage me, smile at me. Remember when you stopped to talked with Rebeca, Drew and I one day? You called us “three of my favorite teachers.” You have no idea how much that meant to me. Now every time I feel like dropping out, I get my journal and read. Stop Rosa you are already a teacher and not only that, you are one of Ron’s favorites so get it together and finish! You haven’t come so far to come just this far!”

I barely remember that interaction. My words that afternoon were a spontaneous, simple, seemingly forgetful greeting that I never would have guessed any of them would’ve remembered very long at all.

As teachers, parents, and coaches, we forget that our words, whether we think before speaking or not, whether kind or not, have lasting impacts.

In the New Testament, James (Chapter 3, verse 5), encourages his readers to “Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.”

Think first, convey kindness, and most everything else will fall into place.

Wednesday Assorted Links

1. Don’t throw away your Christmas tree.

2. The ten longest bike/ped tunnels in the United States, with a link to the international top ten.

3. Why data-obsessed jocks need a data detox. In my late November Seattle marathon, the first time I took a look at my watch, it read 21.6 miles. Not bad, eh.

4. Can kindness be taught?

5. Neighbors fed up with traffic take matters into their own hands.