Once upon a time there was a generation who thought they could change the world. They protested, they had sit-ins, and they questioned authority from teachers, politicians, parents…and anyone over thirty. Above all they believed that “Love is All You Need.” I’ll come back to that thought in a moment.
Before the sixties, children and especially teens were mini-adults. They dressed like adults (or in very specific, child-like clothing). They listened to the same music as adults, and they lived by very specific rules. Adults were to be learned from and obeyed without question. Children were to be seen but not heard.
All that changed in the sixties. Suddenly we were listening to music that was so different from adults that they even questioned its identity as music. We were dressing completely differently. Dancing differently. Behaving differently. And we were bent on changing the world. The civil rights movement was born; the equal rights movement was born; then the anti-war movement, and much much more.
Then there was love. “Make Love, Not War.” “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” “Love is the answer … what was the question?” Songs and slogans urged us to love one another as the answer to all problems.
Yet, here we are, a half-century later, and while many things have changed, too many things have not.
That’s where you come in.
You were born into a world where we are all connected in seconds; technology has created a global oneness that never existed before. Your generations are part of that global oneness in a way that we older folks never have been. Yes, we tap into it now, but for you, it’s as effortless as breathing air, a thumbs’ distance away.
You were born into a world where technology changes from week to week: more, faster, smarter technology. You expect it to change, and you anticipate the next innovation. I know some older folks worry that all that technology will keep you apart from the world, apart from connection with others. I know that’s not true. I’ve seen just how connected you are…different perhaps from how so many of your elders connect, but you have deep special connections of your own…and with many more people. That technology can help you in shifting the world into a better place.
I still believe that “love is the answer.” You and love are the answer. You can change the world…or perhaps more on target, you can save the world. I ask you to imagine how love can change the world.
What would the planet be like if we all loved it? When we love something we nurture it…sacrifice for it…embrace it. Can we nurture the environment? Sacrifice for the sake of climate change? Embrace green spaces? Can we create a movement to love the earth?
What would countries and nations be like if we loved each other? When we love someone we listen to them, trust them, and respect them. Can we learn to set aside preconceived stereotypes and listen to each other? Can we learn to trust and respect each other and to come from a place of love…embracing our cultures while appreciating each other’s? Embracing diversity without feeling that doing so makes us lose our own identity?
How would it be if in school teachers and students appreciated and loved one another? When we love someone we enjoy the time we spend with them. We are patient and loving. We encourage them. Would there be more patience and respect? No more bullying? How would teaching change? Would love of learning and an individual’s passions for subjects be respected and encouraged? Would love of teaching bring forth creativity and enthusiasm?
What if corporations and businesses loved their customers? When we love someone we treat them with compassion. We try to help them solve their problems. We want to give them our best. Would people be treated with compassion and not just as a human dollar sign? Would we go out of our way to help solve problems and not just say, “I’m sorry, that’s the way we do things here”? Would we look to add value to people’s lives? I have to believe we would.
You love your friends, that I’m sure of. And I’ve heard often enough how you love them despite their imperfections, even when you disagree. What if you loved those other kids who aren’t like you and your friends? Those kids on the rival teams and in the rival schools? Would you go out of your way to include the shy kids? Applaud the drama kids? Learn from the techie kids? Would teams be more about friendship and collaboration than competition, and games be more about admiring each other’s skills than about who wins?
Don’t forget to love yourself, too. It’s easy, as we get older, to forget to celebrate ourselves in the midst of all we have to do. But loving yourself is a necessary first step before you can love anything else. So be kind and compassionate to yourself. Celebrate and share your gifts, talents, passions, and accomplishments. Learn from your challenges. Know that you are amazing and have gifts to share—and then share them widely and with an open heart.
I love you. I’m willing to learn from you, as I hope you are willing to learn from me and the other elders. We have so much to give one another. I ask you to ask yourself, “How can I create and spread the message of love”? And, then, go do it.