“Old & White vs. Young & Brown” by Eric Bryant

Sep 27

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I came across an interesting story on the growing generational/ethnic divide.  In the National Journal, page Ronald Brownstein writes:

A contrast in needs, attitudes, and priorities is arising between a heavily (and soon majority) nonwhite population of young people and an overwhelmingly white cohort of older people. Like tectonic plates, these slow-moving but irreversible forces may generate enormous turbulence as they grind against each other in the years ahead….

The twist is that graying white voters who are skeptical of public spending may have more in common with the young minorities clamoring for it than either side now recognizes. Today’s minority students will represent an increasing share of tomorrow’s workforce and thus pay more of the payroll taxes that will be required to fund Social Security and Medicare benefits for the mostly white Baby Boomers. Many analysts warn that if the U.S. doesn’t improve educational performance among African-American and Hispanic children, who now lag badly behind whites in both high school and college graduation rates, the nation will have difficulty producing enough high-paying jobs to generate the tax revenue to maintain a robust retirement safety net.

The future of America is in this question: Will the Baby Boomers recognize that they have a responsibility and a personal stake in ensuring that this next generation of largely Latino and African-American kids are prepared to succeed?‘ contends Stephen Klineberg, a sociologist at Rice University in Houston, who has studied the economic and political implications of changing demographics. ‘This ethnic transformation could be the greatest asset this county will have, with a young multilingual, well-educated workforce. Or it could tear us apart and become a major liability.’”

To me this article points out a powerful possibility.  What if retiring baby boomers invested in the kids in their area – whether they like their grandkids or not?  I have seen this happen in my own family when my dad began helping teach English as a second language as a volunteer in central Texas.

How can we make sure these two groups help each other and not create even more of a division?

Have you seen other good examples of ways to connect these two groups?

“Seeing People, Not Stereotypes” by Tim Hoiland

Sep 15

Tim Høiland is an aspiring artisan of shalom. He lives in Lancaster, more about Pennsylvania.

When I first met Veasna, he was just another faceless moto taxi driver in a frenzied mob outside a hostel in downtown Phnom Penh. When we said goodbye several weeks later, he’d become a good friend.

Over the span of a month and a half Veasna and I would have long conversations as he expertly maneuvered us in and out of rush hour traffic between my apartment and the office where I worked across town. What I remember most about those conversations was the way that stereotypes – both his and mine – were constantly being challenged.

We talked about his view of the world, rooted in Buddhism, and mine, centered on the person of Christ. Because Cambodia is almost entirely Buddhist, I was surprised to learn that Veasna sometimes attended a Christian church on the weekends. I’d somehow concluded that church hopping was a uniquely American pastime. He seemed surprised to learn that “American” and “Christian” aren’t necessarily the same thing, and listened intently as I attempted to explain my belief that the way of Jesus is not only quite different, but in fact far better and more life-giving than the hedonism, the materialism and the addiction to whatever is big, powerful, shiny or new, all of which my culture as a whole does not question.

We talked about our families. He told me about his sister, a widow, who was dying of AIDS. He told me he worried about her kids and that he wanted, more than anything, to be able to provide for them. He told me that in order to get a good job, he needed to improve his English. I remember both his pride and his gratitude the day he enrolled in an English certificate program, made possible by the steady work my commute provided him.

One afternoon, Veasna sent me a text message saying he wouldn’t be able to pick me up. Something had happened, he said, and he’d have to explain it to me the next morning. When he pulled up to my apartment the next day and slowly got off his bike, he was visibly shaken. His huge smile had vanished and he wasn’t making eye contact. His fists were clenched as he told me about the police officer who had found him waiting outside the very hostel where we had met not long before. Without warning, the officer had kicked him in the shins and hit him over the head for allegedly disturbing some tourists. These tourists, horrified by what they had just witnessed, insisted he had done nothing wrong, and the officer, without apology, turned and walked away.

Returning to the hostel was no longer an option, Veasna told me, even though it would cripple his ability to find customers who needed rides. I silently wondered which was worse for him, whether it was the fear or the shame. Either way, the damage had been done, and I’ll never forget what happened next.

Standing there with his fists clenched, Veasna looked up at me for the first time. He told me with a look of determination that if he had a gun in that moment he would have pulled the trigger. Once again he returned his gaze to the ground and took a deep breath, perhaps considering the overwhelming and terrifying weight of his words. He then added that he was glad he didn’t have a gun, because his sister and her family needed him in their lives.

I was at a loss for words. Veasna had told me his painful story, something he didn’t even want his family to know. I told him that what the police officer had done was wrong. I affirmed his courage and restraint and his thinking of others even in the middle of it all. And I reminded him that he was in good company; Jesus too had turned the other cheek. Jesus too had suffered. Jesus had been there with him.

When I got on a plane to fly home, the story hadn’t come to a neat conclusion. Veasna and his family were still poor. His sister was still dying of AIDS. As far as I could tell, Veasna was still Buddhist. And the police officer? He almost certainly got away with his crime. But Veasna and I have stayed in touch, albeit sporadically, and he often closes his emails by thanking me for my friendship and the kindness I showed him. I do likewise.

Before, I had held simplistic stereotypes of Cambodians and Buddhists and moto taxi drivers. In Veasna I saw through the stereotypes and recognized a person, an irreplaceable image bearer of God, which no stereotype can contain.

“More Than Meets the Eye” by Scott Savage

Sep 09

Scott Savage serves as part of Crash in Phoenix, approved AZ.  He writes:

“On a very normal Sunday night, more about I was speaking at the alternative service at my church.  I was sharing about how we respond to circumstances and situations that are outside of what we expect.  How we can choose to respond with pessimism and cynicism or hope and trust, looking for God to work in surprising ways.

About midway through my talk that night, a man exited the room and never returned.  He had all of his stuff with him, so I presumed that he was leaving.  It was not until later that night when I realized that he had walked out, probably frustrated with something I said.

The next day, Michael sent an email through our website.  The email was forwarded to me to respond to.  I read his words and sensed his frustration, disagreement and  dissatisfaction from the experience had been a part of the previous night.  Frankly, my initial instinct was to defend myself or blow it off.  But as I wrote multiple responses, I shared them with a couple of teammates.  As we honed my response, I had a strange sense that I needed to offer a conversation to this man.  Maybe there was something more to this email than just a different view on church.  Maybe there was something more to Michael than met the eye.

Well, that simple open door left open for a conversation over coffee has led to 20 or 30 cups of coffee. It led to a friendship full of trust where we started dealing with deeper questions and issues than tattoos, hats, music and videos.  That friendship led to Michael becoming a follower of Jesus.  There is not a bigger fan of our community – no one who connects fewer people to our blog, podcast, or service.  Ironically, he was the first man I baptized and his wedding was the first I officiated later that year.  Our running joke is that he cannot die or else he will be my first baptism, wedding, and funeral.

So an email from a man almost 30 years younger than me moved from a chance to defend myself or reinforce another stereotype to a life-changing conversation that has influenced many people.  I am so thankful that God opened my eyes to see what I would have normally overlooked.”