Lion In Winter (descriptive phrase) 1. A proud, prominent, strong man whose great strength [has]...been eroded by age and adversity.
--Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Allusions
I’m not quite sure when it first occurred to me that the world was beginning to pass me by, as it never would have when I was younger.
It might have been at the local Sunday night trivia competition I play in. If the category concerns popular music or television after the year 2000 or so, I have no clue about the tune, artist, plot or characters. Must have missed it when I was watching reruns of “M*A*S*H”. It could have been the time a few years ago at a convention of ministers, when I looked around and realized I was no longer the youngest person in the room, not even close. Twenty five years into my career, I’m now in the “old guard”. It’s the young clergy who offer provocative, cutting edge ideas, who provoke a creaky protest of “harrumph” from us "veterans". Maybe it was when I had no interest in the next hot social media trend. Facebook was enough. “No one my age uses that anymore,” I was told by a teenager. “It’s for old people.”
Old people? Me? Am I doomed to become the guy in the neighborhood who sits on his front porch in black socks, sandals and madras shorts and yells at the kids to “GET OFF MY LAWN!” When did I transform from a young buck into an old cliché, from a hungry cub of spring into a lion in winter? I know I’ve still got lots of energy and passion left and yet I’m in Act III, not Act I. That might not be such a bad thing to accept: to look to the young, newly emerging world changers, for new idealism, hope and leadership.
It is their world now, in a way. Not mine. Not as much as it once was.
Every generation at some point needs to step aside for the next, to hand off the baton of responsibility to those behind them in line, and say: “It’s your turn now.” I’m reminded of this truth by an ongoing event in the ever young neighborhood of Harvard Square. At Harvard University, hundreds of students this week began a sit down protest on the hallowed green of that elite school. “Harvard Heat Week” protestors want Harvard to divest itself of investments in fossil fuels, to combat climate change. They demand that Harvard use its hefty $36.4 billion dollar endowment to fight the warming of our planet; that the Crimson campus put its liberal mouth where its liberal money is. They want the limousine liberals of Cambridge to switch to a Prius: not just talk about saving God’s fragile Creation, but actually do something about global warming.
My 17 and 20 year Godchildren Chloe and Micah are in the thick of this environmental movement, have been since they were very young, attending climate change protests in Washington, D.C., New York City and now Boston. I could not be prouder of them. Not just because I agree with their stand: that human actions are damaging Mother Earth. More important, I love and respect their passionate civic engagement, because in a real way, the world they fear losing is more their world than mine. I’ll be long gone if the time arrives when Boston’s Back Bay becomes a bay once again from sea level rise, or when a day at the beach might be in Newton rather than Nahant.
Folks can and do disagree about the dire warnings from climate change science, but none of us should disagree that this is a generational issue for our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. It is their battle to fight. Because if they are even close to being correct in their fears, if a time is fast approaching (or has already passed) when there is no turning back from the permanent destruction of earth’s fragile ecosystem, the young must lead the charge to change humanity’s path. My name will be etched on a tombstone when the day of reckoning comes. The young will pay the ultimate price if humanity can’t find a way to sustainable life on earth. Not me.
My job, in my generation, is to actively support the next generation in their work to make the world a better place, and not just for climate change, but for all the pressing issues which define life on our big blue planet in 2015. It is still my world but with each passing year, that world changes hands. That world is given over to ages yet to come and now it is up to them to embrace the work of active citizenship. We may not and will not always agree on their generational ideas or ways. It always gets tense when one generation is asked to give over power and responsibility to the next.
But guess what? One day in the not so distant past, we were once that new generation. We demanded that it was now our time. We declared that the culture had to change and by God we were the ones to change it. We were uppity, pushy, ambitious, and so sure, as only the young are. Remember? It was our world then: for better, for worse.
Now the world belongs to the young. That’s a good and right thing. This lion in winter prays that God will bless the young with courage and wisdom for the living of these days.
It is their world now and that gives me hope.