He stood on the corner, waiting for the walk signal. I sat in my car, idling across the intersection. He studied his phone; I studied him. He wore a leather jacket, the back highlighted with upside-down crosses. He was tall, skinny, his dirty blond hair roguishly styled with complicated shaved sides and a topknot. He stood outside the acute care facility; did he work there? Was he visiting a relative?
My red light changed to a green arrow, and I drove past him. Perhaps late 20’s, not as young as he first appeared, his stubbled face showed both wariness and weariness. Still, there was defiance in his stance, which I admired.
It surprised me, my admiration. Earlier in my life, I would’ve judged him for the “satanic” symbols on his jacket (although he could really be a fan of St. Peter), for his earring, his haircut, his aggressive posture. I may have feared him, or piously prayed for him. But I wouldn’t have seen past his appearance. I wouldn’t have seen a young man with grit, with a determination not to be pigeon-holed.
These days, I appreciate those younglings who have the energy to care. Those who rally to protest, who rage against injustice. I appreciate those who look within, finding a desire for something deeper, beyond entertainment. Those who still search, even when they fear there is nothing to find. These are the courageous ones, the ones who may feel bitter over the betrayal of a world who promised and did not fulfill. The ones who are discouraged and anxious but still keep moving.
I am 60 this year, a disregarded boomer, I suppose. We did some good, but not enough. My generation rose against our elders, condemning their disregard of the planet. But clearer skies and cleaner highways mean little in the wake of global climate change. We marched for the civil rights of some people and against others, keeping “traditional values” as a cover for our privilege. We were generous to some, but held as the bottom line our own comfort.
If I could have the last 30 years back, what would I change? If I get another 30, how do I want to spend it? I think the answers to both questions include less fear and more risk. My default state is sloth, conflict avoidance and dissociation. Occasional entertainment can be restorative, but I hope there is never a final tally of all the hours I’ve chosen to spend staring at a screen or book instead of facing myself.
My daughter says, “Living in awareness is like being in therapy 24/7.” A good therapist helps you connect with yourself. A great therapist helps you find the courage to face those things you’d rather not see. And the best therapist shows you that in acceptance and love for all you are, you can find acceptance and love for all others are as well.
God has been my own best therapist, often using others’ voices to teach me. Today, God used a twenty-something on a street corner to remind me that the music of life lies not in homogeneity but in celebrating the uniqueness of every voice.
Jesus gives His followers the authority to bless in His name. And so I bless you, young man, to find all you seek, to receive comfort for what troubles you and to continue to stand in strength. Thank you.