Civility

civility

 

Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent? The one… who speaks the truth from their heart; whose tongue utters no slander and casts no slur on others; ….who keeps an oath even when it hurts, Psalm 15:1-4

 “Civilization” has as its root word civil” which comes from the Latin word civis or “civilized” in English. It is a “sense of human society in a civilized condition.” To be civil is to be polite and respectful, even if you disagree about an issue.

I have watched with dismay the breakdown of civil discourse in America.  David’s Psalm above puts a strong emphasis on language needed in this day and time. It is David’s clarion call for civility.

Millennials are in the crosshairs on this.  Their lack of reading hurts in many areas. They are headline readers from digital media. That means that they are poor students of history and don’t get into factual details or nuances.

Their understanding is just a millimeter deep. Slogans and epithets prevail.  As Peggy Noonan notes in the Wall Street Journal, millennials have too much information but “too little thought”.

They also are swayed by emotional appeals. Most make decisions based on emotions, not on facts, reasoning or logic. They have been educated for the past decades by a system that places a greater emphasis on feelings and self-esteem than critical thinking.

Human discourse, over time, has always had its ups and downs. Sadly, we are at one of those low points where headlines, epithets and name calling has crowded out real conversation. Democracy assumes that there is more than one viewpoint.  That’s what makes horse races – no one assumes that everyone is going to pull for the same horse.

Human conflict is not new. Even in a family context, eventually you encounter a face-to-face conflict. But the question remains: Are there are boundaries to that conflict? If so, when are they crossed?  Or, put another way, when does the conflict result in a confrontation that goes beyond the pale?

I would posit that recent uncivil discourse has crossed the line. Over time, people have attempted to dehumanize someone through language. As Brene Brown mentions in her research, “dehumanization always starts with language”.

Dehumanization is defined by Dr. Michelle Maiese as “the psychological process of demonizing the enemy, making them seem less than human and hence not worthy of humane treatment.

As soon as one sees people on “the other side” of a conflict as morally inferior or even dangerous, the issue becomes one of good versus evil. Gee, does that sound familiar? That means that any language can be justified if the goal is to attack something one considers evil.

Eventually, the targeted group becomes morally excluded. They “fall out of the scope of who is naturally protected by our moral code” according to Bene Brown. During the Holocaust for example, Jews were treated as subhuman and referred to as disease-carrying rodents.

It started with language but then went much farther. The Nazis of the 1930’s and the   Rwandan genocide of the 1990’s are instances in history where language started a downhill slide to persecution or genocide.

It may be difficult to believe that we would get to the point of excluding people from equal moral treatment.  Unfortunately, as Brown note, we are biologically “hardwired to believe what we see and to attach meaning to the words we hear.”

Bottom line, we are all vulnerable to the process of dehumanizing.

We are on a slippery slope as a nation and a culture. In the past, differences were hammered out in the political arena, with both sides making their arguments on a given issue. Now, it is an all too familiar scene to see politicians and media check their brains at the door and resort to name calling and epithets.

Unless we recognize it and stop it. Sadly, social media platforms are a platform for dehumanizing behavior. We need some adult supervision here.

We have recently watched politicians in high positions advocating that members of the other party should be chased out of restaurants or other public places, and that, if they are white, then they are automatically racist.

In the case of men,  they should “just shut up.”  A recent Presidential contender said that “civility” to the other party goes out the window until “my party” regains control.

That’s effectively mob rule. Where a small mob of Antifa activists can take over a city street in Portland and harass innocent bystanders with impunity.  That’s not the America I grew up in.

The danger is that the younger generation watches all of this through the sound bites of social media. They perceive that it must be normal behavior just because it happens. They don’t know history or where dehumanizing can lead.

The challenge here is for leaders on both sides to step up and say this has gone too far. Unfortunately,  visible politicians have checked their moral code at the door and done little to condemn bad conduct or dehumanizing language. It is an “ends justifies the means” approach.  It is time to speak up on this issue because of the danger it poses to our society.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  As a mentor, you can provide valuable historical insights into what happens in cultures when dehumanization occurs.  Language matters in today’s culture.

FURTHER STUDY:  Brene Brown’s post on Dehumanization is an excellent perspective based on decades of research on the topic.

RESOURCES:  Dr. Jolene Erlacher has recently published a book worth reading entitled “The Daniel Generation: Leadership in an Ungodly Culture” available at Amazon. This is her sequel to her book titled “Millennials in Ministry.”

WORSHIP:   Listen to Natalie Grant sing Cleanwhich tells that there is nothing too dirty that God can’t make clean.

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page or emailing me at otterpater@gmail.com.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of the site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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George Jacobus

golf

Why didn’t I listen to my mentors, or take my teachers seriously?” Proverbs 5:12 (The Message)

 Who is George Jacobus, you might ask?  In his day, he was one of the best teaching golf professionals in America. He was president of the PGA in the mid-1930’s.

As the head golf professional at Ridgewood Country Club,  George hired an unknown golfer as an Assistant Professional who went on to win 11 straight professional golf events in a row. It’s a record that stands today.

His assistant’s name? Byron Nelson.  A movie was made about Byron’s life and career titled “Byron Nelson: A Texas Gentleman”. He was also a TV golf commentator for many years and still has an annual PGA tournament named in his honor.

George worked with other golf professionals, including Gene Littler. He saw that the game depended on developing junior players, to whom he gave unlimited free instruction.

He was old school. I can still see him on the golf range dressed in a white linen jacket sporting an ascot and a panama hat even on the hottest and humid summer days. He was an encourager, always asking you after a round how you played.

George taught me and other juniors how to play golf.  He worked on my swing and gave me good swing mechanics for free. It is a game that I still love to do today.

But George taught more than golf. I didn’t realize it at the time, but now, 60 years later, I realize that he wasn’t just a golf pro teaching me good golf swing mechanics. He also taught me about life. He was a mentor to all he taught.

His first life lesson is one that I will never forget: “Remember that you are a gentleman first, and a golfer second. Don’t ever get those reversed.

The term “gentleman” has fallen out of use today.  Sixty years ago, it meant being civil, polite and honorable in all situations. Your behavior matters.

Golf can be a game that tries your patience. You can lose your cool if you aren’t careful. But your conduct as a gentleman is primary, not secondary. It keeps the game in perspective.

Losing your cool and throwing your clubs was not just frowned on; it was something you just did not do. It was a one strike situation. Lose your cool, and you would lose George’s support.

As a gentleman, you are to behave appropriately in all venues, not just on a golf course.  We need more gentlemen today, given our divided culture.

George died in 1965. I didn’t find out until sometime later because I was still in college at the time.  He left a big shadow in my life, and those around who knew him. One of those was A.W. Tillinghast, the architect who designed the golf course at Ridgewood Country Club, and worked on 400 others.

I ran across an article in a golf magazine about the design of Bethpage Black, a golf course on Long Island, NY,  which was selected to be the site of the U.S, Open.

The author had looked into the career of the architect who designed the course, A. W. Tillinghast. There was  a debate as to whether “Tilly” (as he was known) actually designed Bethpage Black.

I couldn’t find a link to the article, but I remember what it said. The writer described Tilly as being “down on his luck” at the time of the construction of Bethpage Black.  He had just had a divorce from his wife and was battling a drinking problem.

George, as the president of the PGA, hired Tilly to go around the country to help clubs redesign their golf courses.  It helped redeem him.

The writer went on to say that, because Tilly was traveling non-stop around the country, he couldn’t have spent much time at Bethpage Black. The writer concluded that, while Tilly did have a hand in its design, the local superintendent, Joseph Burbank, deserved more credit for the result.

The words about George Jacobus leapt off the page when I read the magazine.  He was reaching out from his grave to remind me what a gentleman did for his friends.

I was lucky to have a George Jacobus in my life. Maybe you had a mentor too, if you were lucky. It might have been a coach or an Uncle.  Someone that took an interest in you.  That’s what a mentor does, and it is why the process is so valuable.

The challenge here is that the next generation are searching for mentors, yet having a hard time finding someone to invest in their life. Consider stepping out of the stands and getting on the sidelines as a coach to someone younger. You don’t have to be a golf pro to do it.

 MENTOR TAKEAWAY: The demand for mentors by the millennials exceeds the supply. Consider not only mentoring, but also encouraging those around you to be a mentor.

FURTHER READING:  A biography of George Jacobus is posted on the website of the Ridgewood Country Club. A biography of Byron Nelson at Ridgewood Country Club is here.

WORSHIP:  For the second time in a row, I am linking to“Fall on Me”, a duet by Andrew Boccelli and his 20-year-old son. It is a picture of having someone in your life to depend on.

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page or emailing me at otterpater@gmail.com.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of the site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fragrance

fragrantrose

“Christ .….through us, spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him.  For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.” 2 Corinthians 2: 14-16 (NRSV)

 I love to garden. I can pretty much grow anything – vegetables, flowers, shrubs, and grass. About 12 years ago, I gave it up for a time when we moved into a townhouse with no yard.

My daughter got married shortly after we moved in to our townhouse, so we added a small stone patio garden in the back.  My wife mentioned that she had always wanted a rose garden. You might guess where this is going. I put in a small rose garden. So far, so good.

I went to the local rose store (no kidding, there is a rose store called Witherspoon in the Research Triangle) to select my roses. They sell premium hybrid teas. You buy what is called a “bareroot” which is a dormant rose plant with its roots during the fall or winter. Then, you plant them in the spring.

Witherspoon also provides a service to plant, feed, and take care of your roses all year-long for a fee. I figured this was the way to go. Low maintenance. My inquired about the maintenance service until she found out that they charge by the number of roses. The minimum was based on 20 roses and we only had 5.

When she returned, she told me of the high cost.  Then she added that she had a better solution. Witherspoon provides free rose maintenance classes and she had signed me up telling me “You’re going to love this!”

I was thinking to myself: “Not so much.” I attended the classes, albeit somewhat reluctantly. Turns out that growing roses is not much different from growing vegetables, although roses are highly susceptible to plant diseases, insects, and other pests.

In no time, I became a rose gardener par excellence. Unlike premium roses sold at Witherspoon, there is a variety of rose that has been bred to resist common diseases called “knock-outs”.  These are easy to maintain, but in the course of breeding them, they lost their fragrance.

What sets my special roses apart is their fragrance. I could take a single rose to my secretary, and it’s smell would permeate our office space. You couldn’t miss it, unless you had a bad head cold. The picture above is a rose from my garden last night.

If I had brought a knock-out rose, no one would notice it. The blooms are not as spectacular, and there is little, if any fragrance.

Paul uses “fragrance” in the above passage in describing the aroma of Christ to others.  Theologically, all believers have “Christ in us”. So, the question comes: “What’s your fragrance to others?”

My last post titled  Salt spoke of many churches and Christians that have lost their salt – their ability to be a seasoning to those around them. They don’t look any different from non-believers. Churches that are dying are full of members who have not integrated their life with their faith.

Using Paul’s metaphor, the churches have also lost their fragrance. Their members are like  knock-out roses which have no aroma. Why is this important? Well, in order to connect with the next generation, believers have to look like, act like, and yes, smell like Christ.  Millennials  distrust anything phony, so if your words don’t match your actions, you won’t be trusted.

My wife has a better sense of smell than me. If I have been working outside and come into the house, she quickly will tell me that I need shower. Often, I cannot tell I smell badly, just that I am sweaty.

We often can’t tell what our fragrance is to others. We might think we smell good, but others don’t think so. It can be a blind spot. That’s why having a mentor in your life – either a peer or someone older – is helpful. They can see you for who you are and have built up enough trust with you that they can tell you that you “smell” in ways you can’t discern.

The challenge here is to be open to having others speak into your life. Give someone the right to tell you that your fragrance is off – you might need more than a shower to wash off the aroma. You might need a course correction. We all need that, because we all have blind spots.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  A mentor can speak truth into the lives of others. We all have blind spots. We all need to have someone who knows you well enough to tell you that you might smell in our behavior when you aren’t aware of it.

WORSHIP: Listen to “Fall on Me”, a duet by Andrew Boccelli and his 20-year-old son that reminds us of being a positive “fragrance” to our children. When I heard it for the first time, I said “Wow!”

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.comSUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of the site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.

 

 

 

 

Salt

salt

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.  Matthew 5:13

I just returned from my first mission trip with a church group from Valles, Mexico. I went with four other men, each representing another decade of life, starting with one in their 20’s and all the way up to my age.

I was asked to do a session on discipleship. It was not my chosen topic. I started by saying that there are three words in common use in Christianity that aren’t in the bible: discipleship, missions and mentoring. Yet they are in the Bible, albeit it not explicitly.

Intuitively, we understand the meaning discipleship and missions, but less so mentoring. A disciple is a follower of Christ, and in Matthew 28, we are commanded to “go and make disciples of all nations.”

Unfortunately, the modern church has altered that command. They are more interested in gaining members than making disciples. The result, unfortunately, is predictable.

The church in Europe is a fraction of its size in just two generations. The author of one study said: “Christianity as a default [in Europe], as a norm, is gone, and probably gone for good – or at least for the next 100 years.”

South Korea is suffering the same fate today. They have huge churches, some with over 100,000 members.  They have lost their salt. “They have failed to raise disciples who can live the life of Jesus in Korean society” according to an article in www.lausanne.org 

They have focused on numerical growth, not qualitative growth. Their membership is in a free-fall and predicted to drop from 8.7 million to 3 or 4 million by 2050.

Thom Rainer, a noted church consultant for Lifeway, recently predicted  over half of the churches in America will die in the next 20 years.  Sadly, churches are evaluated on how many members they have, not how many disiples they have made. I suggest it is the wrong measurement.

Churches attempt to teach discipleship through sermons and programs. Those approaches are aimed at the head, not the heart. There is no transformation involved. The result is a watered-down believer who often is invisible to those around them because their lives don’t reflect their beliefs.

Content transfer creating head knowledge is of little help. Discipleship is caught, not taught. It usually takes place outside the four walls of a church. That was the consensus of 5 pastors from around the world when we discussed it on Skype during a recent MentorLink Institute session.

The local church in Valles is trying to figure out how to connect with the millennials and the next generation. They are not alone. I spoke to a pastor in Cameroon who lamented that it is a problem in the African church. I have concluded that the issue is universal.

Millennials in Africa is similar to millennials in Mexico, Asia or the United States. That’s been my observation in interacting with people all over the globe. The common denominator of all millennials is digital communication. It has been a game changer.

In Valles, I used two episodes from the Spanish version of 40 Days with Jesus.  It’s a tool that provides a gateway to a generation that watches videos but doesn’t read.

Pastors everywhere are trying to figure out how to connect with and tap in to the millennials in their midst. It takes some creativity. One idea is what is called WJM in South Korea.WJM stands for the Walking with Jesus Movement.  It is aimed at helping people sense “the presence of God and enjoy the intimacy of the Lord in their daily lives”.

The WJM app permits group discussions on-line with others using the app.  It has improved the quality of small group meetings, because people connect on a daily basis instead of once a week or less often.  In 8 years, 70,000 people now use the app in 137 countries.

Today, millennials overwhelming want to have mentors, but the pool of mentors is sadly lacking. Mentoring can produce disciples relationally. Jesus invested in his Disciples as a mentor. He didn’t sit them down in a classroom and lecture them.

Mentoring is available to all churches everywhere as they seek ways to reach the next generation. Too often, churches ignore relational mentoring as a means of creating disciples. It is the Biblical model Jesus used with the Disciples.

The challenge is to find creative ways to connect with and be salt to the next generation. Mentoring is one tool, and WJM and other apps may provide other tools that harnesses the cyber world to connect with digital natives.

We owe it to the next generation to make them disciples of Christ, not just passive members of a church.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  As a mentor, you can be the salt in a younger person’s life. You role is not make them a follower of you, but a follower of Jesus.

RESOURCES:40 Days with Jesus is available in 28 languages and can be found on YouTube, the MentorLink websiteYouVersion, and The Jesus Film app.

Information on Walking with Jesus Movementcan be found here, and the app can be foundhere.

A site by a millennial called recklesslyalivehas a list of 15 popular bible apps.

FURTHER STUDY:  Since my post on EQ, Tim Elmore at Growing Leaders has released a new Habitutde Curriculum for Social and Emotional Learning.

WORSHIP: Listen to “From the Inside Out” which reminds us that real transformation starts with our heart, not our head.

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of the site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.

 

 

 

 

 

 

EQ

loveyourneighbor

 

Carry each others burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galations 6:2

Educators have long had a focus on developing your intellect. It is a focus on IQ, aiming to make pupils learn commensurate with their intelligence.  I have long harbored the suspicion that this singular focus may be wrong, and that educators need to be equally or more attentive to developing Emotional Intelligence (EI).

Some call EI a “soft skill”. It can be measured  so that you have not just an IQ but an EQ as well. As one commentator said, “your IQ can only take you so far in life.” I agree. You can take a test to measure your EQ on a scale from 1-160 with averages in the 90-100 range.

In my law career, I interviewed a lot of job applicants, many of whom had college or graduate degrees.  A review of their resume showed they were smart. The interview was an opportunity to determine what I called their “AQ”, or “Attitude Quotient” (this was before the term “EQ” became popular).

I wanted to find out what made them tick, what they were passionate about, and what their interests were outside of academics.  It’s another measurement of “smart” in my opinion. Some call it “street smarts”.

This is important for a number of reasons, but particularly with today’s next generation who often are isolated from interpersonal contact, and instead default to texting or using some other social media rather than conversations which are face to face.

Thomas Sowell, one of my favorite authors,  recently published Discrimination and Disparities. In it, he cites a Stanford University study of some 1,470 people with IQ’s at or above 140 which is generally regarded as a genius level. The study followed their careers for close to 50 years.

The results were surprising. Some in the group had successful careers, “others had modest achievements, and about 20% were clearly disappointments.”

Of 150 men in the disappointments category, only 8% had college educations, and dozens had only high school educations. Two people who were tested as children but didn’t qualify for the study by having an IQ of 140, earned Nobel prizes.  None of the 1,470 people in the study earned a Noble prize.

Sowell concluded that having a high IQ is only one factor in being successful, and that there are other factors at play. For example, in the least successful group, one-third had a parent who dropped out of school before the 8th grade.

Around 1995, a number of educators realized that IQ alone was “no guarantee for the success in life”, and that it might be “too narrow a concept”.  Studies show that IQ alone is not all that is needed for success in life, and that EQ may be a significant determinant of leadership potential.

Which brings me back to EQ, which covers a number of features including self-awareness, self-discipline, motivation, social skills and empathy. One of the attributes of many millennials is that they lack empathy. Their focus is inward – as in “it’s all about me.”  Taking selfies is symptomatic of a deeper self-absorption issue.

Their also lack of interpersonal contact (other than through text or social media) means that they do not have a well-developed skill set at reading people – not only verbal cues but non-verbal cues such as body language.

As a lawyer, I dealt with colleagues who had what I would call limited social skills.  One of them in particular had the interpersonal skills of an anvil dropped from a 10 story building.

He would unintentionally verbally run over some staff member. Periodically,  I had to go into his office and tell him the grim reality that he had messed up and he needed to apologize for whatever he had said or done.

Why is this important?  Studies show that individuals with a high EQ tend to make better leaders. There are now classes offered in Social and Emotional Learning (‘SEL‘). Studies show that of the kids enrolled in SEL classes, 40% improved their grade averages, and 50% got better standardized achievement test scores.

Our challenge here is that the next generations may be even more lacking in EQ than prior generations. Their focus on self can make them emotionally myopic and unable to empathize or connect with those around them in a healthy way.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Mentors are in a great position to help your mentees turn their focus away from themselves to find ways to help others. Encourage them to volunteer at things like soup kitchens or go on a mission trip.

FURTHER STUDY: Article in Forbes Magazine by Travis Bradberry, author of the book

Emotional Intelligence 2.0.

A 2017 Forbes article titled “When It Comes to Success, EQ Trumps IQ Every Time”.

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Pass It On

grandfather

Only be careful and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. Deuteronomy 4:9

When someone asks: “What do you want your legacy to be?”, I often think about achievements, but then I realize that achievements are temporal. What both my wife and I most desire is to leave our fingerprints all over our children and grandchildren.

We have been blessed with good health and the opportunity to enjoy both generations of our family. We are conscientious in trying to arrange for trips with the grandkids in small groups. We started last year with Sarah, 11, on a trip in Europe.

Next year, we are planning to take our four grandsons to a dude ranch in Cody, Wyoming which is owned and operated by a classmate of my son and daughter from high school. They are already excited. We are too!

This year we took our 16 and 18-year-olds (Allie and Hannah) on a road trip from Nashville, TN, to New Orleans. It was designed to incorporate music since both are active musicians.

We included other sights along the way, including the Space Center in Huntsville, the civil war battlefield in Vicksburg, MS, beautiful ante-bellum homes in Natchez, MS, and the LSU tiger in Baton Rouge, LA.

It was also an opportunity to have a chance to observe two members of Gen Z up close and personal. As I noted in a recent post, they are quick to distance themselves from the millennials.

In many ways, they follow in the footsteps of my generation (the Silent Generation born between 1928 and 1945) as to their work ethic.  I will elaborate on that theme at some other time.

Much of the studies I follow of Generation Z didn’t apply with a couple of exceptions. They were never without their cellphones. I think it was tethered to their hands. Hannah wasn’t into selfies, but she did like to surreptitiously take photos of others. She got one of the best photos of my wife and I which I dearly treasure.

The only issue, of course, was getting them up earlier than 10 am to get started. Teenagers love their rest, and we tried to accommodate them where we could. We shared all meals together, spending a lot of time talking about fun things that we all enjoyed about our family. I learned about them and hope they learned about us.

I am a firm believer in “passing it on” to the next generation of our family. Family stories tell so much about you – how you lived, loved and thought. It covers the good times and the bad. I also do the same with the several men that I mentor.

We are repeatedly encouraged in scripture to pass it on to the next generation.  If we don’t, we have failed what God wants us to do.

The challenge here is for parents and grandparents to be creative in spending quality time with their kids, and in our case, grandchildren. Those moments are legacy makers, and the memories will last a lifetime and beyond. I wish I had been able to do the same with my own grandparents, but it was during a different era and they were unable to travel.

As I have said many times, try to live life with no regrets.

 MENTOR TAKEAWAY: Consider doing something together with your mentee which will build a stronger relationship. You’ll be glad you did.

MUSIC:  Listen to Canons, which comes from Psalm 8 and reminds us that the world’s beauty is a reminder of God’s creation.

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

SUBSCRIBE:  You can receive an email notice of each post by clicking on the icon at the top right corner of the site (www.mentorlink.wordpress.com)  and entering your email address.

 

 

Millenial Trends

grandma-2637457_1920

After all, children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. 2 Corinthians 12:14b

This summer, I took time off from writing while traveling with my two eldest granddaughters who are both musicians. One is a rising Junior in High School and the other starts college this fall. Spending quality time with them was my priority, so I parked my blog writing.  Good move, because family comes first on the priority list.

I did, however, continue to follow interesting trends affecting the next generation, and I’ll spend a couple of posts discussing some of them. Usually I find an article which is interesting, and I email it to myself and save it under “Blog Ideas”.  The two I have chosen are quite different: one is troubling, and the other is light-hearted.

The first trend may be a distinctly American issue, but it’s one that can affect anyone anywhere. It’s the issue of providing care to a parent who has some malady like dementia of Alzheimer’s, or some other disabling health issue requiring either part-time or full-time care.

Millennials now make up 24% of all caregivers, according to the Wall Street Journal. Most have been uprooted from their lives to deal with health issues of their parents or grandparents, and it is occurring earlier.

Baby Boomers, unfortunately, have been poor stewards, and many are financially unprepared for the cost of serious health issues. A recent study shows 1 in 3 Americans have only $5,000 saved for retirement.

Most Boomers planned for Social Security to cover them in retirement, but several factors have made that safety net inadequate, particularly as to rising health care costs. I faced this issue with my own parents, but fortunately they had resources to provide substitute care by others (either a nursing home, or home care).

They haven’t figured out their own life and now “have to make decisions about another’s life.” On top of that, “one-third of employed millennial caregivers have an average household income of less than $30,000. Most are working full time and devoting, on average, 21 hours a week to caregiving.”

The cause, as I mentioned, is not of their own making. It is partly a function of lack of financial planning by the Baby Boomers who have not saved enough for long term health care. I’ve read a number of studies on how unprepared financially the Baby Boomers are. It’s a big problem, because 10,000 Boomers reach 65 every day.

I find this trend to be troubling because it further delays the ability of millennials to get on with their own lives. It also runs counter to the often-repeated accusation that all millennials are self-absorbed.  They are often responding to a family need which puts their own aspirations on hold.

Switching to another trend is the almost cult-like fascination millennials have with plants.  They have become plant lovers due to the fact that they can’t afford to buy houses or have a family. Instead of getting tied into video gaming, they are turning to social media to extol the qualities of their favorite plants on social media.

Their connection to flora has a bizarre similarity to having a pet dog or cat. Instead of loving their pet crossbreed poodle, they love their Schefflera arboricola.  I have to be careful here, because I had a Schefflerafor 25 years, although it was not a dwarf one.  I certainly didn’t get on social media to show a picture or share information about caring for them.

There are even instances where they limit travel because they couldn’t get a proper plant sitter for their exotic houseplant.  No, I’m not kidding.   One West coast millennial said that now that he has 135 houseplants, he has a “perfect excuse not to go home” during the holidays.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Joe Queenan talks about this recent phenomenon.  He notes that one millennial has not visited his parents since 2007 because he finds his plants to be a “lot less annoying.”

I find that incredibly sad. One thing that occurred to me is that the tendency of having extended adolescence up until some are 30 is part of the reason for the plant trend.  Most parents would agree that when your children achieve adulthood, their relationship becomes more normalized.

These two trends are really at opposite ends of the spectrum. On the one hand, you have millennials stepping up to care for family which is self-sacrificial. On the other, you have a hobby that becomes so all important that it intrudes on family relationships.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Mentors can assist millennials facing decisions about their aging parents. You can be a great resource of helpful advice.

RESOURCES:  When the Young Must Take Care of the Old in Wall Street Journal.

WORSHIP: Listen to Healing is in Your Hands by Christy Nockels.

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