I actually was not inspired to write this post about the difficulties young people are facing but instead about those that older people are facing. There’s something else we need to talk about first.
Younger people (age 18-30 years) have recently been blamed up and down for the “second wave” of COVID cases we’re experiencing in the US. Some of my family members like to say it’s because of the “kids going out to protest,” (to which I say, there are lots of people who are not young who are protesting, and “kids” seems kind of unkind, and protests are not the only thing people are doing in large groups right now, etcetera etcetera…). What I have personally seen over the past month, by people of all ages, is a relaxation of attitude towards the pandemic. Maybe this is us becoming desensitized to it, or we’re not personally affected by it (yet), or some of us have just said “screw it”? Maybe this is because the state I live in was the first to officially reopen, and that was taken to mean that it was okay to come out. Since we’ve been cooped up for so long, we’re all ready to get back to normal. Accordingly, I’ve seen people out in pretty large groups at bars, restaurants, and pools. As I walked along the Katy Trail a few weeks ago with my family, I couldn’t believe how jam-packed one of the restaurants just off the trail was. I could see the cloud of droplets floating above them all, and I could feel their excitement of being back “out” again. I totally get it.
As I’ve said in another recent post, I don’t think it’s helpful to blame anyone for our troubles, and it’s certainly not helpful to generalize and blame an entire group of people for something. I’m not seeking a religious label here, but I think most people would agree that Matthew 7:5 is a basic value. So, what can each of us do in our own little corner of the world to try to minimize the effects of this pandemic as we head into the beginning of maybe the weirdest and toughest school year we've seen? No matter how old we are, we can just stay home when it's an option (or keep staying home, if that's what we've been doing! It's helping!). Remember when we all jumped into socializing virtually when this first began? We can still play board games online with friends, have girls/guys night on Zoom, host virtual Netflix watch parties, and Facetime with family at the drop of a hat. I am so, so proud of my own grandma for taking the leap to get on a Zoom party for the first time. It was a really big deal for her to install the app she didn’t know too much about, disable certain security settings to allow the camera and microphone to work, and confront the social anxiety we all feel when we are invited to a party where there are lots of people we don’t know and they are staring at a close-up of our face.
Now, for the real reason I wrote this post: the senior citizens in my life.
It is really unfortunate that COVID-19 has been shown to be more serious for people over 65, even if they’ve been taking good care of themselves. This has arguably resulted in more social isolation and loneliness that many older adults already experience, and it has resulted in a very false sense of security in younger people. How many of you have said:
“I’ll stay home to protect grandma”
“I won’t go see grandma because I’m nervous about spreading the virus to her” (“…but I’ll go see some friends my age”). Guilty ☹
That really sucks for grandma. If anyone should be saying “I’m not going to stop living my life because of this virus,” I think it’s grandma. And if there’s anyone who should be staying home because they have a lot to lose, it’s the youngest generations.
Years ago, one of my close friends in grad school posted an amazing conversation between two women from different generations. I wish it was a longer video, and I don’t often wish for that. They gently addressed the false beliefs that each held about the other’s generation, and I think there is some serious healing that can be done with conversations structured like this one. I think we assume a lot of things about others based on generation or age, and it’s really unhelpful, especially now. If we don’t get out of the way of these assumptions, how can we really listen to what anyone is saying?
As I said above, I think we’re all ready to get back to normal. The tough truth is that it might not go back to normal ever or for a very long time, and we have to start moving through our stages of grief.
To the young’uns: STAY HOME and don’t judge grandma if she wants to go out and do stuff. If there’s ever a time to give your grandparents a call and find out their opinion on things, it’s now. They might be interested in yours, too!
To those who are older: if you have been thinking that the millennials are at the root of your problems, COVID-related or otherwise, please consider that not all “millennials” are the same, and please consider the plank in your own eye first. Also, the work you are doing to stay home and take precautions protects your kids, grandkids, and friends from this virus, too, not just yourself. I am so thankful for your resilience.
To everyone, no matter what age you are: please, please, please don’t say “screw it.” There is so much to be lost with that attitude. Remember that there are many creative ways (1, 2) to take care of yourself while adapting to a new lifestyle. You don’t have to sacrifice too much.