Sunday, November 13, 2016

Generation Snowflake

The Oxford English Dictionary is updated four times a year – in March, June, September, and December. As some of the words we don’t use anymore get kicked out, new ones take up residence.

Not so long ago BBC Breakfast TV introduced its viewers to a selection of the new ones. They took a camera out onto the streets, stopped members of the public, quizzing them on the definitions of the new words. The only entry that stuck in my mind was Generation Snowflake.

One of the first women they asked described Generation Snowflake well. They are the generation of young people who are wrapped up in cotton wool by their parents.  They are the “little treasures” that must be protected and defended at all times. They are surrendered to at the first hint of a tantrum. If a teacher gives them a row or complains about homework not done, the parents take up the fight on their child’s behalf. What they don’t teach their children is about how to fight their own battles and how to be resilient. Their sons and daughters don’t know how to prevail, to stick at something and see it through to the very end. They simply cave in.

One of today’s papers picked up on the idea of the snowflake generation. The journalist wrote about being a Brownie and going away to camp and sleeping away from home for the very first time. They were out there, in the wild, with their tents and their Brown Owl learning how to cook sausages over a camp fire. When it came for the time to go to bed, the girls had not realised that the tents they had put up were for them to sleep in. They expected a parent to show up and take them home. There was a lot of weeping and wailing and sobbing and very little seeing the whole adventure thing. One lassie wanted to be dropped off at the nearest police station where she could call her parents to come and get her. This was in the days before mobile phones.

The Brown Owl was a no-nonsense woman. She just told them to deal with it. It was the tents or nothing and no one was going home. The girls eventually climbed into the sleeping bags, fell asleep and woke the next morning feeling they had done something very brave. They were not allowed to be snowflakes – people that melted at the first sign of a scorching challenge.

Part of the resilience found in the brownies at camp was in their shared experience. They discovered that other girls shared the same fears and anxieties they had.  They were not alone. Part of the problem for the current generation of young people is their isolation. They don’t always do things with others. Computers, I-phones and game-boxes mean that they are often on their own. Meal times might often not be a family affair, but a variety of meals taken upstairs or eaten in front of a TV. There is too little interaction with others without that opportunity to develop a “we-are-in-this-together” mentality.

Resilience is becoming my favourite word these days. I am surprisingly resilient. I’m not sure that I can hark back to my Brownie days and say it happened then. I came from a large family and lived in a street where every house had its offspring and everyone playing together all the time. There was no computer tech then. I am not sure that’s where my resilience has its birth.

My early days in the teaching profession were not successful ones – I am not that sure about my current day either. I had spent four years getting my teaching qualifications and was determined to give teaching four years before coming to the conclusion I wasn’t cut out for it. That was some thirty six years ago.

My resilience comes from my relationship with God. He doesn’t really allow me to back down from a challenge. When things get tough He directs me to all the resources that I need to triumph. I have always believed that an important part of those resources come from the church family that God has built me into. Yes, we are in this together and we share life together, the joys, the struggles, the defeats, the victories, the tears, the laughter, the battles we fight side by side and the lessons we learn along the way. There is no room for isolationists in God’s kingdom. No one gets to grab a meal and take it up to the bedroom to eat whilst texting a mate.

I would like to think that to the new generation of just-surrendered-to-Jesus Christians I can be a little Brown Owlish. I am thinking not so much of telling the new generation to “deal with it” or declaring “It’s the tents or nothing”.  I would like to live resilience in front of them in a way that they can learn and live it for themselves.

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