Thursday, August 2, 2012

Are We Friends?

Am I your friend's mother, or your mother's friend? Are you the daughter of my friend, or the friend of my daughter? Or are we friends in our own right?

Nothing can bring a puzzle like this to light like planning where everyone should sit at a wedding reception. My daughter did all the heavy lifting on this for her wedding - I just did the overthinking part on the sidelines. Some choices are easy - work people sit with work people, bride's family with bride's relatives, but there are always people who don't fit, exactly.  People who have independent relationships with the bride or groom and with their respective parents. Do they sit with friends of the bride and groom? Do they sit with family friends? Where do they fit in?

Maybe I was extra sensitive to these divisions because I was also doing camp where young counselors were part of my team and as the week progressed I got to know them better than I knew some of their parents.  I can now count them as friends because we have laughed and suffered together as friends do - especially when we are the "adults" in a room full of children.

This week our "sermon" was delivered by young people who had recently attended the ELCA National Youth Gathering in New Orleans. They shared some wonderful stories of their experiences but one haunting note chimed in: they did not feel part of the church before they went to the Gathering. They felt that they were not fully part of things - that church was intra-generational. The youth group did things together, and the adults did things together. They did not whine about this - in fact they celebrated the knowledge that this is not actually the case. It made me wonder though; when did people stop mentoring young people at church?

I think banishing young people to a single generation lifestyle is probably a bad idea. It robs them of mentors,  restricts their activities and conversations to a particular cognitive level, denies them the opportunity to see things from another perspective, makes nearly everything competitive, and also limits their historical perspective. On a purely utilitarian level - who will be more qualified in the job market, the one who understand her peers, or the one who understands people of multiple generations? From a faith perspective, it seems to have similar benefits: knowing people's stories helps us to understand how God works in the world and we reap the richest rewards when we hear those stories first-hand.

Engaging in real friendship with people of another generation is not a stream that trickles down from the oldest to the youngest. It is a two-way street where I gain from knowing my daughters' friends and my friends' daughters, and they gain from knowing me. While the mechanics of relationship probably differ for men and boys or across the gender divide, the benefits remain.

Blessings on your friendships! May they span many generations.

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