As I was driving to my office this morning, I heard a song on the "oldies" radio station, "Living Years" by Mike & the Mechanics. This time, the first line of the song jumped out at me, "Every generation, blames the one before." As I turned that line over and over in my head, I thought about the recent conversations I had with my daughter and son over the thanksgiving holiday. Andrew and I talked about his sobriety, how much freedom he has found in being honest: with himself, with his addiction, with his family, with God. Grace and I talked about the generation gap between boomers and millennials. She wanted to know why my generation is so quick to dismiss millennials as lazy, entitled, disrespectful complainers and yet how quickly we take our "this-is-lousy-service frustrations" out on the millennials who are working thankless, minimum-wage jobs. Our different conversations took several twists and turns, but I came away with greater appreciation for millennials--not only because they are the generation of my son and daughters, but also because they ended up being my "Good Samaritans" when I was suffering on the side of the road.
Just before thanksgiving, I attended the annual conference for biblical scholars in Denver, Colorado. Sheri went with me, and one day we decided to have lunch downtown. Along the way, I noticed several men passed out on the sidewalk. Like most urban areas, the homeless population in Denver continues to grow. After lunch, having visited a few shops, we walked back to the Air B&B. It was a sunny and cold afternoon. We were walking past a church that Grace had told us feeds the homeless--taking in the beauty of the old building--when Sheri tripped over a two-inch lip of marble slab protruding out of the sidewalk--a treacherous obstacle for pedestrians. Reflexively, I reached out with my arm thinking I could save her from face-planting on the sidewalk. Instead, my efforts caused her to land on her side, while at the same time propelled me toward the stone wall surrounding the church. I nearly fell on top of her, legs coming dangerously close to her head as I flew by, the momentum hurling me towards the wall. Instinctively, I lifted my left arm to save my noggin. When I hit the wall, I heard that familiar sound--the one my knees made when I screwed them up playing sports years ago. You know, the cracking/grinding sound when you're separating chicken bones to eat the last bite of meat? That sound. Then, horrific pain shot through my shoulder. My arm went limp. I knew I had separated my shoulder, perhaps even broken some bones. I tried to get up. Nearly passed out. So, Sheri decided she would leave me on the sidewalk to get the car and eventually take me to the hospital. That's when I learned what it feels like to experience one of Jesus' parables.
Before she left, Sheri noticed a man my age sitting in his parked truck next to us. He saw the whole thing. Never tried to help. After Sheri left, I crawled to the same wall of my misery, trying to lean my body against it, hoping I wouldn't pass out in the meantime. A few boomers passed by. Never broke their stride. I'm writhing in pain and they probably dismissed me as another homeless bum laid out on the sidewalk. Then, a couple of millennials came from their apartment to check on me. They asked me if I was alright, wondered what they could do for me. I reassured them, "My wife is coming to get me. " The next thing I remember, my face is pressed against the cold marble sidewalk. Having passed out, I heard the young woman yelling at me, "Sir, are you okay? Sir, are you okay? I'm going to call 911!" At that moment, Sheri pulled up with the car, the young lady helped me in, and off we went to the house and eventually the ER.
Good news came in two forms that day: 1) moderate shoulder separation, no broken bones, and 2) millennials are a kind, emphatic generation--the Good Samaritans we boomers will eventually need when we can't take care of ourselves.
Honestly, "every generation, should thank the ones before . . . and after."