Why Millennials Deserve Respect, Admiration, and All the Avocado Toast They Can Eat

Once upon a time, there were Dinosaurs. tyrannosaurus-rex-284554__340They had ruled the world for millions of years, and they were confident, rich and powerful. They didn’t like change, though, and they especially didn’t like the weird feathery flying things that had appeared without warning in their forests. a-flock-of-birds-2811043__340

Fast, free of many constraints, and always singing, these little guys drove the Dinosaurs crazy. The Dinosaurs thought the birdsong was meaningless noise, and devalued the ability to soar and thrive in an environment they themselves couldn’t understand, much less experience.”They never DO anything,” the Dinosaurs complained. “They don’t respect gravity. They never help us blaze paths through the fern forests. They don’t even act like us. They are worthless.”

Although the Crocodiles’ lineage was nearly as old as the Dinosaurs, they perceived the newcomers differently. crocodile-66886__340Observant and patient by nature, they saw how building nests in the trees rather than in the mud helped protect the eggs from predators. They noticed that the sounds the creatures made could broadcast a warning to everyone within earshot. They admired the little fellows’ ability to soar up and over the landscape and find food and new territory. Over time, the Crocodiles partnered with the new critters to some extent; their tiny beaks were amazing at cleaning bits of meat out of the Crocodile’s teeth.

And then the asteroids began to fall. All the mysterious feathered animals gathered together  and made an ear-splitting racket. birds getting outThe Crocodiles were alerted, and when the flock flew off, they followed. crocodile-2697279__340The Dinosaurs, however, were oblivious to the danger and didn’t even recognize the need to escape or change their habits until it was everlastingly too late.dinosaur-2525442__340

Are you sick of all the Millennial-Bashing? Me, too. Know what all their critics have in common? Age and ignorance. Radio commentators blast them as the most worthless generation that ever lived. News sites share outrageous accusations, like; “(Millennial’s) Avocado Toast Addiction is Costing (Them) a House.”

avocado toast

Social media is crawling with posts blaming the Millennials for everything from the decline in morals to increasing pollution to the poor economy to  inner city crime to the loss of old-fashioned values.

There’s a reason the word “crotchety” is applied to those of us who are getting old. It fits. Yes, older people have always blamed younger people for all the social problems they don’t like (and usually caused themselves). It’s still a lousy excuse for emotional abuse.


The Millennials haven’t had a chance to impact long-standing problems like pollution, crime, or the economy, not yet. These are problems the Grand Old Generation, the Baby Boomers and the Gen X’ers bequeathed to them like stinky gym socks. They just got here. What they do have is a radical new way of viewing the world, and ideas that just might save it.

So to all you Dinosaurs from the “ME” generations out there:

You think they “don’t do anything” because what they are doing is incomprehensible to you. You can’t think like they can, you can’t embrace constant change the way they can, you have no idea how to network–trust me–compared to them. You think of the Internet as an abstraction, something you can use to market your crafts on Ebay or improve sales in your business. They know the Internet is a place, a community, and they know how to survive there. You’re so busy complaining about the feathery flying things that are suddenly all over the place, you’ve failed to understand that you are becoming obsolete.

Several years ago, a teenager was found frozen to death outside my daughter’s high school. The police didn’t know who it was. The adults thought it would be best to keep the students in the dark until the teen was identified and the parents were informed. What no one on the outside knew was that as soon as the body was found, the information was disseminated to the entire school. Those high school teens investigated, at the speed of text, and found out which teens were out of contact. In TEN MINUTES, they’d narrowed it down to two people. In another seven, they’d located one of the missing, and knew exactly who was out there in the snow.  From there, it took only a few more minutes for the information to spread to all their contacts, and the parents of the girl found out not from the police, but from a mutual friend, that their daughter was gone.

You may have heard of the six-degrees-of-separation theory, which states we are all connected a lot more intimately than we realize. These Millennials have leveraged their connections in such a way that they know exactly what is going on at all times and in all places; six degrees is impossibly far apart. Information is power, and you would not believe (and perhaps would sleep better not knowing) the degree of power these young people have.

You say they are over-sensitive and thin-skinned, but these are people who know more about bullying, virtual stalking and abuse than you can imagine. You think they are to blame for the decline in moral values, and say they are too wary of deep relationships, when it was your generation that reared them on a steady diet of pornography, “free love,” divorce, narcissism and violence. The Millennials didn’t supply themselves with M-rated video games. They didn’t create the pornography that links to any and all content online.  They didn’t create the transparent or lingerie-look clothing lines in all the stores that you criticize them for wearing. They didn’t invent the loose morals you decry–you’re the ones who popularized those. (Woodstock, anyone?)

Many of them had to raise themselves, some in households with substance-addicted parents, some in homes with absent parents, some with single parents who were out working two or three jobs to keep food on the table. They grew up in a scarier world than you did, and they did a fine job surviving there, without much help, thank you very much. How dare you blame them for not displaying the values it was YOUR responsibility to teach them? Where were you when they needed you? Why weren’t you modeling what they needed to learn? Why didn’t you pass along what you knew? If you don’t like how they turned out, guess what. It’s partly your fault.

Like every young generation, they are idealists, and they want change, and they have hope, in spite of the discouraging, despairing voices of their elders. They grew up being told the world was on the skids and the environment was toxic and people were no good, and evil lurked behind every smile, and you think they’re OVERSENSITIVE?

Yes, right now they are young, and not in control of most of the resources, and you can lord it over them and mock their lifestyles and feed them despair. You can treat them like garbage, hold them to impossible standards and make them work for $9 an hour and pay through the nose for any kind of education. But they are getting wiser, and they are figuring out that they don’t need you. Your well-being depends on their future support, and it is support they aren’t obligated to give.

Now a note to the Crocodiles:

You have a chance to help these amazing young adults, and the power to open doors for them and give them the benefit of your wisdom and experience. You have a chance to show humility and allow them to teach you some of what they know. You probably won’t sprout your own set of wings, but you can listen, and you can learn, and you can benefit, and you have a chance to thrive in the new world they will create.

To you Millennials:

You are breathtaking and beautiful. You embody the hope of the human race. And you are welcome to chow down on all the avocado toast you care to eat.


Let’s Hear it for the Supporting Cast

Is there an unsung hero in your life, someone whose unselfish actions created the updraft on which you soar?

akroyoga-1753837_1920Behind every tale of incredible individual achievement stands the silhouette of the person or people who sacrificed to make that triumph possible.

Behind every Olympic figure skater is someone who got up before dawn every day to sit on a freezing wooden bench and watch a child fall on the ice. Behind every self-sufficient person with severe disabilities are numerous therapists, caregivers, trainers, and paraprofessionals. Behind every elderly person who is lucky enough to remain in his or her own home (after complications due to advancing age have made self-care impossible) is at least one self-sacrificing family member or friend.

This world-changing yet under-appreciated supporting cast is made up of heroes who give their time, talents, and resources to open up the world for others.

Yes, Helen Keller was amazing, and she was an inspiration to many people, but where would Helen have been without Anne Sullivan? Anne devoted 49 years, her entire adult life, to Helen.

Yes, it is wonderful that a young woman with severe disabilities was able to serve a mission. But her teenage sister, who gave up over a year of her life to provide extensive care and support and make that mission possible, is the one whose sacrifice staggers the imagination.

Yes, it is amazing that someone who was hit hard by polio and partially paralyzed was able to win a gold medal at the Olympics. But the incredible stamina, planning skills and selfless devotion of the person’s spouse supported that dream until it became reality.

Is there an unsung hero in your life, someone whose unselfish actions created the updraft on which you soar? Please take a moment to show them how much you appreciate them, and thank them for all they do.

As for my hero–Jim, thank you for everything you’ve done to show your support for me and for our family. I’m amazed that anyone could be as wonderful as you.



A Time and Place for Forgiveness

beach-2010507_640If you want to cross the English Channel, and have your name officially ratified and posted in the short list of successful Channel-crossers, you are allowed only a swimming cap, goggles, and a swimsuit. (Wet suits are only allowed in a special swim category, and are not otherwise recorded as a qualifying swim.) You will, however, be accompanied by a support boat. While you can’t touch the boat without forfeiting, the boat will carry your supporters to cheer you on and provide moral support, food, and drink.  In a very real sense, you are the only competitor, but you aren’t forced to make the swim alone.

In the healing-from-traumatic-events endurance effort, you are the only competitor, but you may have any number of supporters. Therapists, friends, magazine and book authors, a healing community…the list is endless. Unfortunately, you are bound to meet up with people who don’t understand the nature of the event, and seem oblivious to what you really need, and when. Some people, in their rush to help, can do you serious harm.

Imagine you’re a hopeful swimmer, and have just leapt into the rather chilly waters of the English Channel, ready to begin your journey. The supporters in your boat aren’t all on the same page as you are. Some came prepared to offer useful assistance, but one person either doesn’t know how to help, or wants to save you a grueling ordeal, so she tries to cut to the finish. She tosses you a huge, fluffy towel, cozy and warm from the dryer.

Of course, it is soaked immediately, and hampers your movements, and if you aren’t quick and don’t toss it away fast enough, it may even pull you under and drown you. If you protest, she will insist she meant it for the best, and she will be horribly confused at your lack of gratitude, and oblivious to the danger she’s placed you in. She may even act like there’s something wrong with you, and insist it worked for her, and everyone else she’s ever known. She may be persuasive enough, and may shame you enough, to trick you into retrieving the towel. She’ll then proceed to blame you if you drown.

That fluffy towel would be appropriate at the end of the swim; it would be welcome, and wonderful, and the recipient might even feel inclined to give the generous supporter a big hug.  But in the beginning, well, the most charitable thing you can say is that the person offering the towel is ignorant and misguided. Other less charitable labels may also come to mind, but of course you would never say them.

No sooner had I started my journey, and begun to heal from the abuse I survived as a child, than unenlightened people urged me to cut to the finish. “What you have to do,” they’d say, sounding wise in their dangerous ignorance, “is forgive him.”

Forgive him? I didn’t even know how badly I was hurt! I hadn’t worked through any of the pain, fear, anger, or imposed shame. It was the worst possible advice, but it was also the most popular. Forgiveness, some people thought, was a short-cut everyone should take.  Many of these people had endured similar experiences, and claimed they had “forgiven” their abusers, but the not-so-surprising part was, none of them were healed. They were still carrying all the shame and pain and anger and fear, and it leaked out in inappropriate ways at awkward times, as their minds tried to force them to feel the buried emotions and take action to get rid of them (minds have a powerful desire to heal, even when their owners do not). Substance abuse, domestic violence, abusive patterns that repeated themselves in their own families; they were still embroiled in those challenges. Their “forgiveness” was denial in disguise.

Truth is, forgiveness isn’t even possible in the very beginning, especially when you haven’t yet processed everything the person has done that needs to be forgiven. Trying to force forgiveness can nip your journey in the bud. It will quickly soak up the freezing water, and bind itself around your limbs, and leave you gasping.

But what about at the end of your journey, when all the work is done and the feelings have been felt and the memories recovered and drained of any pain or emotion? At that point, you can truly forgive the sinner without condoning, accepting or denying the sin, and it feels wonderful.