Joy, Hope And The Plasticity Of People

At a social meetup called “Coffee and Conversation”  I had way too much fun last night (if coffeconversationthere is such a thing as too much fun). It made me think a lot all the way home.  I thought about 3 things: My brother in law’s visit,  what made this MeetUp gathering so much fun and that there might be hope for America despite what appears to be the immaturity of Millennials.

I was given the opportunity of hosting the social meetup, because Mike (the usual host) was not available for personal reasons and Marty who founded the group asked if I would help. The meetup is simple. All those attending are asked to write a questions on provided paper squares (like secret messages we passed in middle school) and add  the folded surprise questions to one of two ziploc bags labeled:  “Current Events” or  “Fun Topics.”

The host (me last night) then passes the bags to a person next to them who gets to choose a question from either bag.  The host then times them giving them 2 minutes to respond. Others just listen and do not comment. The Same Question, goes around the table where all are seated and each person gets  up to two minutes to comment. If they choose not to comment the bags of questions moves on to the next person. When it gets back to the person who chose it originally, the floor is open to for discussion should the group desire. There is one unspoken rule…. treat everyone and their opinions with respect whether yrespect.jpgou agree with them or not! What is this event? Is it a game? Is it rules for polite conversation? Is it a social gathering? Is it conversation for intellectuals?  To me it is a little of all and more as it engenders a lot of fun and a  potential creation of friendship and camaraderie among all types of interesting informed people.  It seems to attract a wonderful variety of people whose tolerance and respect for others in conversation, should be a model for our nation’s future growth.

One question, at last night’s gathering, that took me by surprise read “What was the best thing that happened to you this last week?”  I could not answer it at first, though I picked it from the bag, so I chose not to answer then  but to pass it to my left to Gerrie and then answer it when it came back to me and I had more time to think (another rule: you may pass on a question if you wish).  Listening to my companions share their experiences reminded me of what I would like to share (attitude) so I did when the question finally came back to me. I talked about my Brother-In-Law, Jose.

This is what I said in response to the paper question: About four years ago, Jose’s wife had a stroke. It left her with a paralysis of the left side of her body (she was left handed) and it motivation-2084506_640left Jose with a major challenge at nearly 70 years of age. However, Jose is a model of the potential plasticity of human beings (their resilience) and, to me, one of my heroes in life!  Jose and his wife Margie came to stay with us for a weeks invited vacation at our cozy 2 bedroom villa in Florida (they live in NJ).  When we took them to the airport a week later, on the way home I had trouble not crying. I already missed them too much!  Jose, who always loved people and being an entertaining host, taught me a lot about enjoying life, every day.  Jose never complained about the extra work he had to assume to help his wife dress, walk, shower etc., no he actually made it mostly fun.  Jose and I like to cook so we cooked nearly everything (we never ate out) together in the kitchen and had a great time together doing it (I was the sous chef).  We took long walks together,  when my wife gave Jose a break  from his well accepted responsibility as she spent time with her sister (his wife). We had a lot of fun talking as we walked for miles around our community. We had a dance party one evening at our community social center and there you could see the magic that Jose had created.  Though his wife could not truly “dance” fluidly (as she had to drag one leg and hold on to him for support) he got her up on the dance floor many times and held her hand while dancing with twice as much enthusiasm. He had his joy reflected back at him by the unceasing laughter and smile on her face.  When she was tired and sat one out or if the music was just “too fast,”  Jose often got up on the floor near her and danced with her walking cane (without being shy)  and made her and everyone around laugh with his very apparent enthusiasm (at making his wife smile).  His enthusiasm for life and joy in living was contagious!  By the end of the evening, out of the hundred or more people at the event, many had come up to ask Jose to move to the community as they needed him there!  Others had asked us to see if we could talk him into moving to our community. I wanted him and Margie to move down here too!  It was no wonder that when we left him off at PBI airport and drove home, the air seemed to have been sucked out of the room in the car. My wife and I have a good relationship and we have fun neighbors and what I would call a good life. We are blessed; however, Jose had taught us all something. It was the plasticity of enthusiastic people who rose to the challenge of what others called pain and suffering and turned it into joy. Not that he does not get tired, not that he does not have challenging  moments; however, he has chosen joy and surely makes that his life!

So what made the MeetUp fun?  It was the attitude and intentions of the people sitting at the table with me. Like Jose, they decided that life would be fun, they chose to not let unity-1767694_640anyone’s opinions be cause for negativity but rather an opportunity to learn. They chose to treat each other with respect and Always Be Positive (an unspoken rule). They chose to talk from their heart with integrity and in so doing engender trust and respect from others attending.  They chose to be light hearted and find the best they could. At that particular meeting, I don’t believe anyone choses “current events.”  We were all tired of the political divisions that the media and elitist celebrities have been beating America with for months, since Donald Trump’s election.  It was a good decision for all of us.  However, even when we do choose “current events” which is most often the choice,  this group has learned to discuss important issues in a positive and respectful manner.  If anyone cannot follow this rule (and that is very rare), they are politely asked to change their attitude or not return. In 6 months of attending, this has only happened once.

Finally how is there hope for Millennials and America?  From what I have seen of Millennials (in my case being a senior citizen it is mostly from the media) they are not impressive. They seem to have lost the “Power Of Positive Thinking”  and dwell in fear, anger, anxiety and frustration. They could use a lesson from Jose about how to deal with change in a positive way,  one that too many parents and college professors seem to have let die years ago. Yes, a reward for “showing up” is illogical!  They don’t seem educated despite attending educational institutions for that purpose. They also don’t seem to have the communication skills and social graces to lead a nation. They cannot even talk to each other over dinner  as they would rather text each other while sitting at the same table.  On the other hand, each generation seems to be molded by the challenges of its times. It makes them often look odd and clumsy to their older fellow Americans,  those of the last generation.  This made me think about how my father could not understand my generation, which seemed infected with the dream state of the “The Hippies.”

Driving home from the meetUp, I thought about how odd the millennials were from my perspective as a baby boomer. Some that I knew told me they did not date, Yikes that shocked me! They did not have girlfriends, they did not “go steady” and they did not plan on marrying or rushing to have kids as we did.  Instead they met on social media and sent message to each other painted with Pound signs like ” #BORED,   what should I do?‘ ”  On the the other hand the millennials have adapted to change with plasticity that is inborn in youth and fought for by adults.  They use social media (despite its horrific illusions and deceit) to form groups and keep in touch in some ways.  They use their phones almost like a rudimentary telepathy to track and share what is going on in each others life so they don’t ….miss out.  Many of them still “go out” in groups and dance together, though that millenials-smartphonemay be becoming more of a GenX phenomena.

Years back, Orson Scott Card wrote the Sci-fi book Ender’s Game. It was a story of how a teenager who was good at playing war games was seduced by the military to join a “competition of gamers to end all games.”  In reality the war game he thought he was playing on simulators was a real war and the alien race of insect like creatures (the misperceived enemies) he succeeded in annihilating were a real live civilization!   In essence, his growing up a a nerdy gamer, empowered his civilization to win a war against what was perceived as dangerous enemies.  The lesson?  Growing up different is a way to adapt to a changing technological and cultural environment.  Because it is different from the last generation does not make it wrong or weak, it just makes it strange. Yes they do appear as cry babies but we will see what happens when push comes to shove and they must make it in the real world (out of college).  I would not write them off too quickly.  On the other hand, in Ender’s Game the reality was that because of barriers to communication and cultural misunderstanding, Earth did not recognize that the Aliens were capable of  peaceful interaction with humanity. We missed out on an opportunity to expand our horizons and share knowledge with a whole new life form. It concerns me that communication via FaceBook, Twitter and other media may do the same for our nation, especially as it is more and more in the hands of Millennials. At the same time, if we baby boomers could detach from our TVs and TV Dinners to date, dance organize and keep America running, perhaps the same will be true for the most recent generation.  Keep your fingers crossed and be positive!

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