Each generation faces challenge. Today our children are facing a monumental challenge and looking into the faces of my grandchildren, I see hope for the future and admire their courage.
I am inspired by my three grandchildren ages two; fourteen and eighteen. Each represents a human being facing a global crisis without the benefit of highly placed leadership that gives a sense of safety, security and confidence. I look into their eyes and realize that they are thriving in spite of it all. My wonder and curiosity leads me to a deep feeling of admiration; one that humbles me and fills me with hope and a belief that their courage will lead us through this time. They are clever and funny with individual attributes and qualities that aid them in being resilient even though the covenant with adults has been broken; violating that sacred trust, as our first nation ancestors declared, to prepare the world for the next seven generations.
My two year old grandson spends his days running up and down the halls; doing art; reading; doing workbook activities with his Mom and Dad; keeping his parents busy for all of his waking hours. He has his toys, television, songs, screen-time on his tablet, good food and loving parents who know that he is the center of the universe. He has responsibility and knows how to clean up after he plays with his toys. He has a regular bedtime and a story to settle him down for rest. I am constantly amazed at his ability to self-soothe and essentially put himself to sleep after a story. When babysitting, I have stood in the doorway and observed this amazing phenomenon with great admiration.
My fourteen year old grandson is in his first year of high school and is a natural homebody who relishes the comforts of home and the pleasures of his video games; as well as food and friends. He is a soft spoken, kind human who teases his older sister and loves animals, plants and the natural world, in addition to active play even indoors. During a family reunion on a cruise ship, I also discovered that he enjoys trivia games and over the summer while trying to overcome my fear of swimming, I found out that he was a great swimmer and an excellent support to me. “Grandma, you can do it!” This young man is a wonderful male role model because he exudes a quiet confidence blended with equal parts of strength and kindness.
My granddaughter of 18 is a fascinating young adult who might be heard to say such things as: “I’m intrigued.” She has a point of view; solid beliefs and flexible creativity that moves from music to art to sewing. She has performed on the violin before a famous conductor and actor Alan Alda. She sang and played the piano with high school peers at Jazz at Lincoln Center; in the performing space at the Port Authority and in 2019, she designed and made her own prom dress; something that I thought ended with the demise of Home Economics in the schools. She has a fondness and curiosity for the peculiar and different and has a fearless determination and sense of order that enables her to show up and perform, always to the best of her ability. Without wealth and the promise of a college fund, she earned the opportunity to matriculate at New York University for her four year undergraduate degree. She recently confessed, in the midst of the COVID 19 shutdown, that she just wants to get on with her education. I feel that her words capture the fervor of Malcom X who said, “By any means necessary.” I am proud and a bit surprised, at times, that one so young can be so mature and self-defined. Clearly, she has her moments of youthful challenge like when her orderly universe collided with her choice to purchase a new phone, resulting in the loss of meaningful items from her treasured ‘collectibles’ that were lost from her old phone. She mourned and lamented the losses, then rebounded and healed. This gives me the feeling that this is how she will face the oncoming years.
These three are different sides of the one human profile that has created us to be resilient, adaptable and creative. The first cave person who ventured out for food didn’t know what dangers might be present, but the necessity of survival over-rode the possible fear and uncertainty. The uniqueness of my grandchildren is not something I observe simply as their adoring grandmother. It is the ageless and eternal part of me and my human lineage that is enlivened to think of how they have much in common with each other; other offspring; and even me as a youngster.
It deepens my appreciation for who they are as individuals every time I think of them staring into oblivion with their young eyes; looking into the abyss of possible extinction just as successive generations have done while traversing the ages. For me, it was being five years old playing on our block; seeing the older kids talking about the pigeons that they kept in coops and harboring the chilling terror of other things in flight such as the planes flying overhead in the early 1950’s during the Korean War; and the Cold War, thereafter. I thought that the planes brought danger and I was always fearful, but continued to play. Like many others, I remember the “duck and cover” school drills under desks and the air raid sirens that would go off daily. I remember other home owners, except my mother and father, rushing to install storm shelters that were a familiar part of life presumably providing shelter from bombs and “fallout.” Nuclear annihilation was another layer of our doomsday reality that we came to accept. At ten, I remember the Cuban Missile Crisis and how the moments hung suspended in the threat of a possible nuclear confrontation. Rollo May captured the era with his book entitled: The Age of Anxiety.
Perhaps we have survived because of threats that activate our survival instincts, prompting our inner resources of resilience. Yet, I dare say, today we are facing a crisis that not only threatens the Western Hemisphere, or countries in conflict; it threatens the existence of all of us with the ominous foreboding message that this may just be the beginning of the karmic cost of collective and cumulative neglect; accompanied by a toxic disregard for the laws of nature and our precious planet.
Suspecting the eventuality of the current crisis, or perhaps reflecting the consciousness bent toward “dystopia” instead of “utopia;” young people may have gotten prepared and see this as another episode of “Hunger Games” or “Zombie Apocalypse.” The prospect of this saddens me, but then I look at my grandchildren and I am impressed by their grounded state of being. It reveals that perhaps they have longed to come home and to have their parents join them there. Perhaps they have waited for a critical moment for humanity to arrive at its own calm center. Maybe they are part of a generation chosen to rise up for the greatest challenge of the world. I believe that we are facing our inevitable moment of truth, and my grandchildren are my strongest evidence that hope lives in their DNA, along with an inner guidance system that directs them toward love and the peaceful soul that dwells within each of us. Thank you children, for being in the vanguard of the struggle for a new beginning cloaked in a durable garment made from the remnants of the past and promise of the future.