They say kids today are the "I" generation. IPad, iPod, iPhone, and I, I, I ...it’s all about me! And, although I've certainly experienced a sense of entitlement among our youth, the truth is, until my Starbucks wake-up call this morning, I was inclined to agree without giving it much thought.
I had completed my run and decided to stop in at the local coffee-house for my morning latte. Cup in hand and perched high on a bar stool at a counter butted against a large window, I found myself mesmerized by the busy downtown streets. Taxis were blowing their horns because cars were moving too slow, cars were posturing for position at the stop light, and just about everyone was dodging pedestrians that crossed before the little walking man presented on the screen. A perfect dance of managed chaos! What I saw next broke my trance and left me baffled. In fact, I found myself thinking about it on and off for the entire day. I was certain there was something to learn from it.
I would say she was my age...45-55 years or so, definitely not a teen or young adult. There were three northbound lanes, two moving forward and a center turn lane. She was in the second lane about 20 feet from the intersection, the light was green but she came to a complete stop. The car behind her braked and quickly moved into the turn lane to avoid hitting her. I breathed a sigh of relief that I didn't have to witness an accident. She then put on her emergency flashers. Oh no, I thought to myself, I hope everything is okay? No sooner had the thought passed my mind; she hopped out of her shiny new SUV, left the passenger in the right seat, and strolled into the Starbucks store. Yes, you heard me right; she
s t r o l l e d, as if she was taking a leisurely walk in the park.
The lines were long - as they usually are in the morning hour - but she didn't seem bothered in the least. As she waited for her cup of hot froth and her sugar coated morning bun, the cars outside were jogging left and right trying to maneuver past her car parked in the middle of the street - and the dance of chaos picked up a few new steps. When her order finally arrived, she moseyed, yep, m o s e y e d over to the condiment bar, stuffed her pockets full with sugar and sweeteners and grabbed a handful of napkins. She was oblivious of the world around her.
At this point I expected her to hop in her car and jet away. Heck, she had already caused a traffic jam and the light was once again green. But no, she got into her vehicle, divided her order with the man in the right seat, arranged her breakfast as if spreading out a picnic, and then proceeded to nibble on her morning bun. I couldn't believe my eyes. This woman, a woman of my generation, did not care who she inconvenienced; she was concerned only with herself.
She did eventually drive on and traffic returned to its Jitterbug cadence, but I was changed. Maybe this "I" generation we speak about isn't just about iPhones and iPads and teens, but the "I" of growing up in an individualist nation. Maybe, this "I" generation isn't really generational at all? Would I have witnessed this in a collectivist culture? Probably.
I think the question we need to ask ourselves - everyone, of every generation - is, "Who am I."
And yes, much of who we become is learned from our culture and the groups with whom we engage - our "community", but the reality is that every day we decide who we are going to be by the actions we take. Ultimately, who we become is who we choose to be. Who we choose to be is exampled in how we engage with our world – how we live our life. When my life is done, who I was will live on only by the memories ingrained in the minds of those who bore witness. I don't want to be seen as egocentric and uncaring of others. I want to make my memories speak a legacy of love, kindness, compassion, and integrity.
Who am I? I am the good, bad, and the ugly of me. We all are. But today, and every day, I will seek to make the good in me grow and glow. I will give more thought to my actions and how I respond, and ultimately present to the world. Not because I live by the opinion of others, but because I want to honor my opinion of me.
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