As I turned on my car to head to the gym this morning, the radio DJs were in the middle of reading a list of “Millennial worries”. Put out by Business Insider, the article that they were referencing, “The 10 most serious problems in the world, according to millennials,” doesn’t surprise me; it’s a list of serious problems in the world, as the title indicates. What surprised me was how shocked these radio show hosts were at each one, commenting after nearly every one about how seriously the Millennials took the world’s problems, as if they expected #4-7 to be about Snapchat filters.
This is something that gets my goat. This kind of popular shock and surprise at Millennials caring about anything other than their phones is to judge a whole swath of people without ever actually seeing, hearing, or engaging them. Outside of it being an unkind reading of a group of people, it is cuts off what could be healthy, mutually beneficial intergenerational relationships.
I’m what I like to call an “Old Millennial”, I was born at the early end of the millennial generational divide. I definitely have millennial characteristics, but I’m old enough to use a phrase like “get my goat”. In some ways, I feel like the older sister of the Millennials; the Millennials born at the opposite end of the generational divide are very different than me, but they’re still my siblings and I’ll stand up for and protect them. Maybe this is birth order personality or maybe it’s because I now work with Millennials or maybe it’s because it’s just plain bizarre blame a whole generation for killing Applebee’s.
If there’s anything that we can take away from the list put out, which pulls from the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers Survey, it’s that the one thing Millennials can’t ruin is the worry that we all share for this world. The world’s most serious problems according to this list are those that affect the most marginalized (poverty, income inequality, lack of education, etc.) and those that affect our shared future (climate change, religious conflicts, food and water security, war). Over 30,000 millennials, from a variety of countries of origin, responded to this survey, and the truth is that Millennials cannot ruin the worry that we share at seeing children go hungry or the dramatic shifts in our world’s climate or the ways in which populist racism and hatred are becoming more and more visible.
The Epistle lesson in this morning’s Daily Office is from James; I get excited when the littler, less known epistle come up. It was James 2: 15-17 that caught me this morning as I was thinking about how much Millennials care about this world and how much work there is to be done: “If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.”
We need each other, folks, or this work will not get done. We need each other to have a faith that is alive and vibrant. Millennials need those who are younger and older than them to be engaged, to care about these serious problems in our world. We need to be people steeped in prayer and people engaged in action, and we can’t expect one generation alone to fully take care of the problems in this world. We need to have relationships that cross these generational divides, because there is no way forward, but together.