Your reputation precedes you.
What I hear from the media is that you're ill-equipped for the real world. You've been raised by helicopter parents, and you can't cope with the possibility of failure or starting at the bottom of the totem pole. I hear your eyes never leave your phones, and your young men have spent so much time playing video games they lack the social skills to date and marry. I hear you're living in your parents' basements, watching reality TV, and waiting for the perfect job to land in your lap.
But the real you? The Millennials I talk to every day? You're nothing like that.
You're inspired, hopeful, energetic. You've thrown your souls into your work -- packing your cars to the gills, moving to new cities, and crashing on couches to pursue God and the church you've supposedly abandoned. I see you committed and passionate about causes and the people affected by them. You're using your technical savvy to serve the other side of the world, to learn how to do helpful work, and to connect with others who share your dreams. I see you using your youth to nurture the whole world instead of pursuing parenthood individually. You have grown up with visions of floods and famine on your screens, and you're determined to do something about it. Every single day I talk with you, and not one of you fits the description the media portrays. Instead, I've met a group of people full of passion, dreams, hope, determination.
I'm a Gen-Xer, and the media once disparaged my generation too. We were the latch key kids, the ones who raised ourselves while our mothers climbed the corporate ladder for the first time. I grew up in public schools back when children were still left behind, and I remember reading the articles (in print, of course) despairing how my generation would ever be educated enough to lead. They were wrong about us, too.
I see you, and I remember what it felt like to be 23. To be convinced if I loved hard enough, worked long enough, hoped big enough, I too could change the world. I remember coming face to face with suffering for the first time. Like you, I lifted my head to the sky and shouted, "Send me!" And I went, just as you do, day after day after day. You and I aren't so different, really. We listen to different music and have different memories, but beneath that, we share a hope. A hope that maybe, just maybe, we can bring light and truth and healing into a scared, broken world.
I need you, Millennials. Because I've been at this a while now, and I've been bloodied and bruised by the darkness I so wanted to eradicate. That torch of hope you throw confidently into the darkness? Mine is now a flicker, burning but just barely, and I guard it with both hands. While I still lift my face to the sky, now I whisper, "Come, Lord Jesus." I need you. I need you to remind me that change is still possible, and darkness will never win in the end.
So keep it up. Keep throwing your souls into your causes and instagramming your inspirational moments. Keep texting me your ideas, and sharing status updates of where you're going next. Don't buy the hype that you're not ready, not equipped, not willing. Every time you show up, you prove them wrong. You're doing good work out there. And the rest of us need your optimism and faith desperately.
Your Burned-Out, Slightly Older Friend
An Open Letter to Millenials first appeared on Venn Magazine.