How can the guard change if you won't open the gate?
A post on Netsquared about the intergenerational transfer of leadership reminded me of the following story:
My last staff fundraising job was at LYRIC, a community center serving lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning youth ages 14-23. When I started, I had just turned 40 and was the oldest person on staff by nearly a decade.
One of LYRIC's services was a job training program, which included paid internships for young people. Before placed on site or with a partnering organization, interns received 50 hours of training, including interview skills, financial management, and how to handle workplace discrimination and safety issues.
The first intern I was assigned was just 14 years old. I told the Program Coordinator, "don't you think I could get somebody who is at least 18? I need to have them be able to operate a computer and work independently." His response was to give her a try, and if it didn't work out, to let him know and somebody else could be assigned to me.
The day came for my new intern to start. Barely pubescent, she couldn't have weighed over 90 pounds and looked younger than her 14 years. We sat down and my first question was, "so tell me about yourself."
She looked at me, paused, and said, "I'm a long-time activist and I'm going to end homophobia."
My life changed that day.
She became one of my greatest teacher. For not only was she a long-time activist, having been raised by a straight mother in an progressive household, but she was going to end homophobia, because she held no shame in who she was, and would happily and calmly dialogue with anyone around the issues.
I had her meet with the Mayor.
She called all city's Board of Supervisors.
We talked about her 100-plus Barbie doll collection.
She changed my life, and in doing so, changed my world.
As adults, so many of us spend all our life trying to change the world around us, but if we only opened our hearts to the youth amongst us, we might find a much easier path to peace and liberation.
P.S. That's me on the left.