I know who Taylor Swift is, not because Carole King is one of her role models. It’s because my granddaughters “love” her. I’m not one of Taylor’s admirers, but I am one of her 90 million Twitter followers because I’m curious to read what she’s communicating with her fans.
Sitting on the porch alone with my Alpha granddaughter (2010-2024), Edith (12-year-old), I listened as she shared what was on her mind. Having time with my grandchildren alone is a rare occasion. Each time there are noticeable changes in their outlooks and interests. When I can resist interrupting and spewing my opinions, I learn what issues are on their minds.
Edie talked about how bad sugared drinks are. She told of a family member who drank several soda bottles each day. She commented about record-breaking days of over 100 degrees, using words like global warming.
My twenty-something Generation Z (1995-2005) granddaughters are moving on with their lives in a darker world than I experienced. Often I find myself at a loss for words, words of hope and reason.
Generation Z’s anxieties are many: Student debt. Donald Trump. Racism. Economy. Climate change. Gun violence.—and so on.
It’s a cop-out for adults to say it’s the younger generations (Gens X, Y, Z, and Alpha) who must solve huge problems that we created. Boomers were given much. We came of age where the proverbial tide lifted (almost) all boats—in an economic environment unique in human history. But we lost sight of the bigger picture.
Younger generations need us by their side to deal with the issues facing humanity. We need to work with them and sustain the hope that there is a future for them with clean water, birds in the sky, and fish in the water. It’s our moral responsibility to support, encourage, empower, listen to, and educate them. It’s not their turn, but OUR turn.
After a few minutes of silence, I wondered what words of wisdom and hope I had to offer for an Alpha. I told Young Edith a story when I was her age. She listened as I told her of a time I didn’t stick up for a neighbor girl, Labba Lús (Labba with headlice), because I was afraid the other kids would not want to be my friend. It was probably hard for Young Edith to imagine that I’d ever been her age, but hopefully my story reassured her that we all make mistakes. Not wanting to make my wisdom talk too long, I ended it with: we can’t undo our mistakes, but kindness reduces how many we make.
“Taylor Swift is a really good role model,”Edie said, ready to return to one of her favorite topics, singing. After sharing with me Taylor’s many accomplishments, it was time for the preteen to head off to bed. Watching the stars-studded heaven in Boulder, Colorado, instead of hopelessness, thanks to Jane Goodall’s book, The Book of Hope, the conversation left me serene and hopeful.
I truly believe the young people of today are rising to the challenge in a most remarkable way. Once they understand the problems and are empowered to take action—well, they are changing the world as we speak. And it’s not only what they do, Jane added. It’s particularly exciting to see how children are influencing their parents and grandparents.Jane Goodall
Turning off the porch light, I went to bed, optimistic that the future would be better than today. Out of darkness, light is born.