I was put on the spot a few months ago. My night job is in a restaurant, partly owned by one of the world’s largest hospitality corporations. I have to attend corporate trainings, one of which started at 8:30 in the morning and was titled, “Generations.” I was in the training with a sampling of hotel employees, and we were swiftly divided up into our various generations and sent to different corners of the room with a white board and series of questions. I was unceremoniously thrust into the role of spokesperson for “Generation Y”, which is what they’re calling people born between the years of 1980 and 2000. Generation X gave their presentation right before us, and as part of the exercise, they had to talk about what they felt was going wrong with my generation. They were criticizing me as the representative of this morally ambiguous, technology-obsessed generation with no notion of privacy or modesty. As a whole, I’m told, we’re staying too dependent on our parents for too long; selfishly delaying marriage and children; addicted to the cult of fame and celebrity; and incapable of surviving without the instant gratification that the internet and cell phones provide. What to say in defense of my generation, the so-called “Millennials”, the “Look-at-Me”s, Generation “Next”? No, by clicking a button labeled “add me” and becoming Myspace or Facebook friends with someone, I don’t automatically assume I am actually friends with this person, and that a deep and meaningful relationship can exist through messages and comments. It’s just that this generation has grown up communicating and learning in vastly different ways, and at a vastly different pace, in a world changing so rapidly it is mind-boggling to comprehend. Some may say the stakes are no higher, the wars and natural disasters no more tragic, than any have been in history. Is it any wonder that Generation Y reacts with the exact same emotions all the previous generations have felt, expressed in different ways, but with the same confusion and sense of being lost, while coming of age in a 9/11 world, a world we are literally consuming and destroying? A recent study said that only the tiniest percentage of young adults consider themselves religious or spiritual, or consider becoming more spiritual to be a major goal in life. Yeah, but I can also find another study saying the exact opposite. That’s the beauty of the Internet, and knowing how to use Google. I think this generation will ultimately be one of the more spiritual. Believing in things like faith, hope, a sense of justice and service and protection of the earth, so that it is a viable place for future generations to live, are the only things that will get us through the huge challenges mankind faces in the lifetime of Generation Y, and the next generation. What clever name will they be christened with? I hope that they will be embraced as a valued part of the solution, instead of being sent to a corner as part of the problem.
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