What We Can Learn From Each Other

The Importance of a Conversation Across Age Groups

What We Can Learn From Each Other
Photo by Phillip Goldsberry / Unsplash

Our world is divided.

I’d say this is a statement we can all agree on, but I know there are people who will argue with me. We’re divided and separated into our various camps.

Some dividing lines are easy to see.

Politics divide us right down the middle. Which sports teams we root for come with colors and jerseys. But what about dividing lines that largely go unnoticed?

Age is an often ignored separator. People rarely engage with people of different generations outside their family members. We stick with people we’re comfortable being around — those who are like ourselves in belief and age.

I’m in the business of conversations.

Most of my time spent with congregants revolves around points of discussion with teenagers. However, a few weeks ago I created an opportunity for two very different groups of people to unite. These were two groups of people whose paths might have crossed, but only in passing. They were people separated by over 70-years.

I took my high school leadership group, all seniors in high school, to sit down with a group of adults in their upper eighties. With no real agenda, I wanted to see what the two distinct groups could learn from each other.

Everyone introduced themselves by sharing their favorite food. Food is the ultimate equalizer. Everyone has a favorite, be it something complex or simple.

From that question, we learned of childhoods on a farm or recipes brought with parents as they immigrated from England. Our evening of discussion was off to a wonderful start.

I then paired everyone off and asked them to share reasons for gratitude. As the conversations began, I sat back and listened as older adults shared stories of spouses and siblings returning from WWII. I overheard stories of family and community being shared from people in both age groups.

Within minutes, any potential divide or difference was set aside for a good conversation. The discussion continued until it was time for the older adults to drive home.

As I debriefed with the high school students, I asked what they wanted to discuss with the group of older adults the following week. The teenagers unanimously agreed they wanted to hear more stories of life from their older counterparts.

Over the past few weeks the conversations across age-lines continued to develop. Last night celebrated together over a meal featuring the foods we discussed on our first evening together.

To heal some lines that divide us we need more conversations with people unlike us. We can learn from each other and grow as people by interacting with those outside our set bubbles.

Learn from a few teenagers and older adults discussing gratitude: life is shared through a conversation and a meal.

Justin Cox Justin Cox

Justin Cox is a donut-loving, word-writing, nonprofit consultant based in Orlando. He also runs The Writing Cooperative on Medium. Come say hello!