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Healing the divide through listening and understanding.
A Conversation Of Understanding Across The Generations

A Conversation of Understanding Across the Generations

By Marilyn Utz

After a few informal conversations with my sweet niece Marissa over ice cream, or at the tail end of my son’s basketball games, I realized I knew very little about the growing group of 18-34 year olds, better known as the Millennials. Wanting very much to have our new United and Together community reach across any sort of division, small or large, and foster respectful and open conversations, I invited my niece over for a chat and to ask a favor.

As a 50 year old woman, I love Facebook. I post pictures of my family, admire other people’s adventures, etc. However, Twitter forcing me to keep my comments to a maximum of 140 characters for some unknown reason makes me want to pull my hair out. All I knew about Instagram was how to spell it, recognize the icon, and that according to my niece, it is a main form of communication and interest for her age group.

So, I invited Marissa over for my first Instagram lesson and a chat. We started with the chat. I have known Marissa since the day she was born, 23 years ago, and we have a very loving relationship. We are both democrats so we see certain issues similarly, but because of our different life experiences we see many things from different vantage points.

I asked Marissa a few questions to start, “Are people in your age group interested in having conversations with others to create more unity?” “Is uniting America even an issue for them, or would you say they are only interested and passionate about fighting for causes that are important to them.” She felt they would be interested in open conversations, and as part of her answer asked me a question, “What is the point of United and Together?” “What’s the vision?”

I answered, “to help people connect with each other beyond what the labels of that person might say.” For example, I’m a 50 year old Caucasian woman living in a very affluent area of California and I’m a democrat. If that’s all you know about me you might make some assumptions about me that simply aren’t true. You might think I loved everything about Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders (I did not) , you might think I’m wealthy (I’m not), and that I have it very easy in life. I might look at her and see an 23 year old, Mexican-American woman, a college student, pursuing a Masters in teaching. I might assume that she is lazy, as often Millennials are accused of being, (my niece is the opposite of lazy, she is hard-working, passionate and thoughtful). And I might assume that she speaks Spanish (she does not), etc.

I continued, “I hope that the United and Together Community is going to help us learn to get to know each other for who we are. What might seem surprising to many people is, that the focus of United and Together is NOT that people agree with each other. The point is to have a respectful and open conversation, listening to not only what the other person is saying but where they are coming from. What are their life experiences? Why do they feel the way they do? You may walk away from the conversation feeling exactly as you did before about immigration, or health care, or America’s relationships with other countries. But hopefully, you walk away with a better understanding of where someone else is coming from and they have a better understanding of where you are coming from. A bridge of understanding and respect begins to take shape, and you both understand a little more of the other side of the issue from someone else’s experience.”

When I finished, I asked, “So, do you think Millennials would be interested in that?” She responded, “Yes, many of my friends are interested in “people first”, looking beyond someone’s disabilities or language barriers and seeing them as equal to you because they are a human being.” She continued, “people can be and are more than the label that is put on them. For example, she said, “you might look at an older white male and assume he can’t be a feminist, but that’s not true. We have to understand where a person is coming from.”I asked what specifically she thought might help attract people to the United and Together community. Right away, she replied, “an event.” Just get folks together where they can get to know one another. So, stay tuned. With Marissa’s help, I think we’ll have some sort of fun United and Together event. I bet we can get a lot of pictures for our new Instagram account.

Many thanks to my sweet niece for helping me bridge the age gap, the very helpful Instagram lesson (United and Together has its inaugural Instagram post), and her help growing our new community.

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