Soon, we will lay to rest the last of those termed the “Greatest Generation.” In our congregation these past several years, we have said good-bye to more than a few folks, most in their 90’s, who grew up and lived through much of a tumultuous 20th century — the Depression, World War II and its aftermath, the Cold War, complex global economies, unprecedented social change.
We rejoice in this generation who fought the good fight and kept the faith through any and all circumstances.
(John Weiss’ The Greatest Generation)
So, where and when and who are the next “greatest generation?” There is no question that God gives each generation gifts and challenges.
We, all of us, certainly have our challenges today. Are we grateful for our gifts? Certainly we have our gifts, too.
Perhaps we have a tendency to idealize these folks, but one trait I observed and admired many times in many of this Greatest Generation has been an ever-present gratitude. Having survived so much, these senior saints, at their best, have modeled a genuine, deep sense of satisfaction and appreciation for life’s simple, abundant pleasures.
So, as we consider the world’s challenges — accelerating and unsettling but often needed social change, polarizing talking heads, terrorism, fundamentalism, economic inequality, fanaticism, aging and age-ism, and on and on — what makes a generation “great” in confronting such seemingly overwhelming forces?
Jesus really, really stressed that whoever would be counted greatest of all must be the servant of all. And such self-giving goes right along with and grows out of thanksgiving.
In Christ Jesus, a God of great majesty and undying love calls for a grateful generation. Here’s a humble service which we are all capable of giving — thanks-giving.
Want to sound a note of calm amid all the chaos? Give some thought to how you thank others and make that extra call or write that extra note. Make that extra effort not to give in to hate. Thank God for so many chances — every day, everywhere we are – to help, to encourage, to make the world a little better — one more prayer petition, one dollar more of support, one more moment of attentive listening.
Want to strike a blow against terrorism? Thank a service man or woman or a first responder or a teacher or a civil servant. Do so quietly, privately, with no concern for a charitable deduction or a plaque.
Or, for that matter, reinforce the fabric of a just and fair society by tipping your waitress a little extra. Or buy a few extra items every trip to the grocery store and give those items to a food pantry. Do your part to right the world right where you are.
Want to prevent an attitude of entitlement in ourselves and others? Practice extravagant generosity and not extreme self-indulgence. Pray about the enjoyment you may give and receive if you volunteer with church or charity instead of frenetically seeking one more in an endless and repetitive stream of parties or cruises or leisure escapes. Substitute a porch swing and sunset for high-end and one-after-the-other vacations. (Frankly, you may enjoy leisure activities even more when you indulge in them a bit less.)
The Greatest Generation was mustered to fight hardship and tyranny. And so are we.
The world has more than enough messes, “hot” or otherwise. The Lord is calling for a grateful generation to clean things up.