This image showed up on my Facebook feed earlier this week. Perhaps you saw it, too.
It had been shared by poet, playwright, author, storyteller, CELEBRATE LIFE scriptwriter and lyricist, Ragan Courtney. His work has been known and loved for over fifty years among my church music colleagues. For many of us, Ragan is also a dear friend.
The photo brings instant tears to my eyes, warmth to my heart, and genuine hope into my spirit. Apparently, it has had a similar effect on a bunch of us who deeply long for lasting peace. Luke 2 refers to such as “those of goodwill.”
When some of us grow older, we try to come to terms with our own generation’s failures. Over the past several years, I have become keenly aware of how badly my generation has failed — our churches, our neighbors, our schools, our strangers, our country, our families, our government, our political infrastructure, our media outlets, and yes, even our enemies. On the feeling level, I have lost all hope that we as a generation will be able to undo the damage we have caused to our children and grandchildren. Notice I said as a generation. However, individually and in small groups and communities, there is still time to enact full doses of curative action. There is yet time for God’s love, still opportunity to express compassion, still chances to serve our neighbors, welcome strangers, and wash others’ feet. And yes, there is still time to actively love our children, no matter what they do or what lifestyle they choose. That’s where the church, our families, our friendships, our schools, and our local governments come in. At home and right under our noses, we can all make differences for the good … if only we will.
Among my generation, it seems such feelings, impulses, and sentiments are varied. Some believe the new generation is a sorry, sub-par lot of morally weak human beings who cannot and must not be trusted. These particular Boomers see little hope in much of anything going forward.
All I can report is what I have seen with my own eyes, heard with my own ears, and experienced and felt in my own heart with Gen Y (millennials) and Gen Z.
I have worked directly, up close, and personally with students since I myself was a student. I began directing a church youth choir when I was 15 years old; that was 54 years ago. I believe the current Gen Z – yes, the group of students who have no memory whatsoever of 9-11 because they had not yet been born – are the finest, kindest, bravest, smartest, most intuitive, most savvy, most compassionate, most visionary, and most resilient generation of teenagers I have ever known. I also believe they are the most realistic and the most justice-inspired generation in my lifetime. I find immense hope believing that God will use this generation to help heal the current diseases of our culture.
And yes, I recognize that many do not share this optimism with me. But some of you do resonate with this faith in God coupled with the work God is doing in the lives of today’s teens. Some say they are the leaders of the future. At YouthCUE, we say they are today’s leaders who will step up even more in the decades to come. We find that to be a highly hopeful scenario.
The three boys in the photo – a Jew, a Muslim, and an Orthodox Christian – while that might sound like the beginning of a bad joke, it is actually an image of a highly hopeful day.
How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity. – Psalm 133:1