In defense of millennials … community involvement is key to turning criticism into praise and our chance to clean up mess left by baby boomers

The term “millennial” has become a four-letter word with nearly every baby boomer. If I had a nickel for every time I heard a boomer complain about a millennial, I’d have enough money to buy a house in the economy they ruined. Of course, I kid about these things, especially to my many baby boomer friends who deserve it. However, there are many millennials who work to shun that title.

A Business Insider article from January says those born in the late 1970s through the mid-1980s could be known as a Xennial, since we had an analog childhood and a digital adulthood. That term is a feeble attempt at melding the microgeneration between Gen-X and millennial.  I am a 1985 model, up there with the Chrysler K cars and I think we try too hard to shun the millennial designation.

Many attempt this because some folks of the baby boomer generation may use it as a pejorative term, despite it was, by and large, their generation and Gen Xers who shaped the millennial stereotype.

Grumbling between generations is not new.

Grumbling between generations is not new.

In the 4th Century B.C. work Rhetoric, Aristotle said “[Young people] are high-minded because they have not yet been humbled by life, nor have they experienced the force of circumstances.” He continued his “get off my Lyceum’s lawn” rant when he said, “They think they know everything, and are always quite sure about it.” I’m fairly sure I’ve seen the same complaints, albeit with worse grammar, on my Facebook news feed.

Boomers, the same generation that gave us the drug-fueled Woodstock and countless protests over everything under the sun, tend to complain that millennials make bad choices and tend to protest over nothing because they lack direction due to their inexperience at life. I would agree, but add it’s not simply a generational issue. Rather, it’s a life issue each generation goes through, while the previous generation gets nervous watching those who will one day inherit the earth.

I like to party like it’s 1699.

I admit I’m a bad millennial because I’ve never been a good young person. When I was young and minoring in music at Tech, my instruments of choice were pipe organ and carillon, because I like to party like it’s 1699. My hairstyle hasn’t changed much and I get irrationally annoyed when I see a man-bun though it has absolutely no effect on my life whatsoever.

For my millennial brethren who, like their parents before them, spent their teenage through mid-30s looking for purpose or a place to belong, the answer does not lie in sex, drugs, rock n’ roll and whatever else the kids are doing these days. The answer lies in community involvement. It’s the basic feeling you’ve made a difference in someone’s life somewhere, either by making friends and building bonds through an organization, doing charitable work, or all of the above.

I’ve always been a joiner.

I’ve always been a joiner, mostly because I’ve never been OK with staying still or settling and my favorite groups challenge the member to keep growing and keep working towards goals. Lions Clubs and Rotary work this way and there are many different organizations out there to join.

If one is religiously inclined, there are also many churches, especially in our area, to get involved with and find ways to serve the community.

My real home away from home other than the cigar shop, is Mackenzie Masonic Lodge. Unfortunately, Freemasonry’s numbers in Texas and across the country continue to drop because though my grandparents’ generation joined in droves, the boomers did not. We are seeing some millennials gain interest, but it’s slow and many of the old Masonic lodges are merging with other, larger lodges or closing.

This is because my grandparents’ generation, colloquially known as “the greatest generation” grew up during the Great Depression and because of that, became heavily invested in the value of organizations and civic mindedness.

I do hope millennials will choose to adopt their grandparents’ habit of joining organizations and being active in the community.

The Great Recession and other subsequent financial problems such as seemingly insurmountable student loan debt hopefully will have similar effects on millennials and their activities. However, the boomers, seemingly as a rejection of their parents’ habits and beliefs, often chose not to join these types of organizations. I do hope millennials will choose to adopt their grandparents’ habits of joining organizations and being active in the community.

Moreover, the younger up-and-coming generation is usually not very politically motivated and the older generation makes up the most powerful voting block in the country due to their attentiveness to the issues. Millennials can, and should, go volunteer or at the very least, keep up with the political party of choice. I’ve made many lasting friendships through the Lubbock County Republican Party, which is a group working hard for the area.

There is also another benefit to being active in organizations and that’s social interaction. As people continue to bury themselves in their phones and social media, the art of conversation and social interaction will atrophy and that can lead to professional and social problems on the individual level. Being involved in cheerful organizations is a great way to build relationships on a face-to-face level and get used to interacting with new people on a regular basis in a cordial manner.

A busy person is a happier person when they are working toward something.

A busy person is a happier person when they are working toward something, whether it is internal, political, or charitable. Free time is lovely as long as it’s spent in a worthwhile manner. While much of the blame on millennials is misplaced, we can work hard to make the world a better place and build lasting and meaningful relationships while we’re at it – though hopefully not while wearing a man-bun.