I teach television and radio production to a slew of young men and women at a local community college. The typical “traditional” student in the community college culture is 18-24, or what has been circumspectly coined the “millennial generation” by authors and historians William Strauss and Neil Howe. Last week, when processing a radio talk show my students produced, one of my more earnest students reflected that the assigned topic of “gratitude” had been a difficult one to create content around. I looked around the room, uncertainly. Two heads nodded, three more joined in. I was baffled. Gratitude? Really?
Jean Twenge, author of the book Generation Me, believes that the primary character traits that largely set “Millennials” apart from their “Boomer” parents is that of inherent narcissism and a sense of “entitlement”. But, the creators of the “Millennial Generation” concept, Strauss and Howe celebrate the premise that this fledgling generation of young and slightly bewildered youth are actually ... more civic minded then ever.
Please forgive my slightly discordant start to a seemingly unrelated topic, but I relay this story and accompanying data to impress upon you the latter of these two theories. Our young people and younger still... care. They care about the hungry, they care about the elderly, and they care about the brave military women and men who are far from home this holiday season.
This, perhaps more than anything else is what struck me most about Big Sunday’s “Thanksgiving Stuffing” event, Wednesday, November 24, 2013.
Big Sunday is a local, Hollywood-based secular organization devoted to serving others and living “gratitude” in action. Yesterday, nearly 300 men, women children ... and yes, primarily Millennials (eh-hem, teenagers) packed into the loft-like studios of Big Sunday to stuff over 1,000 bags with donated Thanksgiving fixings, right down to the pee-can pie. In addition to bag-stuffing, volunteers scattered about the many tables dotting the space, amidst the clutter of tissue paper, holiday stickers, glitter glue sticks and Crayola pens in shades only an eclectic can “see” to invent.
A live blue-grass band rattled the lavish “living room set” devised in the rear parking lot and L.A’s bright-eyed youth couldn’t help but to foot-tap to music they would never admit to their “mains” they had listened to while stuffing bags with canned green beans and gravy mix.
Periodically, I stepped away from the fray, my natural introverted tendencies gasping for breath and I watched so much heart-felt, bona-fide gratitude living in the conversations parents had with their children whilst writing Holiday cards to our soldiers, the gratitude that confidently stepped through the doors with a pack of local Latina high school girls, bogged down with bags and bags and bags of food for the hungry, and the gratitude that swam in the eyes of every man, woman, child…and yes Millennial locked eyes with and smiled at, and yes…there were many.
I ducked out of this living, breathing exercise in serving our fellows, overwhelmed by the sheer scope of the love and desire to help Big Sunday harnessed, and I was so glad that Sunday Assembly got to be a part of it, and that I was a part of Sunday Assembly.
I wandered from room to room, amazed at this marvelous motley crew. Men and women, boys and girls of all ages, ethnicities and…I would imagine, religious and/or secular leanings, working together, creating together, giving together and sharing in gratitude together.
Our young may not know how to talk about “gratitude,” but they know how to live it, and when you’re a witness to something like that, it becomes quickly apparent that this radiant phenomenon transcends what we believe or don’t believe in about what exists and what doesn’t. For, as a wise Whitman once said, “When I give, I give myself”.
If you have an interest in participating with Sunday Assembly at an upcoming Big Sunday event, or any number of similar events we participate in throughout the greater Los Angeles area, please sign up in the Help Often section. To find out more about Big Sunday, you can visit them on the web at www.bigsunday.org.
Sunday Assembly Los Angeles