Intergenerationally speaking.

I never understand people who don't like to talk about their age. I'm 28. I was born in 1980. This doesn't wholly define me as a person, but it does help give you context. When I talk about being in elementary school - it was the mid-late 80's. We watched the Smurfs and Transformers. When I was in junior high, Kurt Cobain rose to fame and committed suicide. When I was in high-school, Clinton was in his 2nd term and Lewinsky was a household name.

Maybe there will be a point in my life where I will want to be perceived as younger. But I don't see why. Time keeps ticking and lying or being vague about one's age will not change reality.

I have peers who are younger than I am , and I have peers who are older than I am. Growing up, people always said, "The older you get, the less age differences matter." And this is, of course true. It's funny to think about how drastically different life felt year to year in elementary school. As curriculum shifts, so do one's interests and ability to converse on subjects. Less so in high school - but it still felt comfortable to socialize within an age range.

I think part of it is those milestones when you're younger. Learning multiplication and fractions, Reading ability, Driving, turning 18 (implications for dating, voting, etc), legal drinking age. These rites of passage.

And then you hit your mid-twenties and it all starts to blend more. You're likely working, post college. And the differences don't seem as important. One person owns and another rents. Some people have pets, others don't. Some seek further education. Some marry and start families.

When you're in school, you're very aware of who has a car. Who is drinking legally. Who can vote in their first election.

When you're post-school, it really doesn't matter. 5-10 year age gaps go unnoticed. Conversation and life experiences flow - and only little nuances reveal that gap - how old you were when you first heard a certain song, saw a movie, experienced an historic moment.

Simple reflections, but something I've thought about recently. When you seek community, you seek all community. When you want to change the world, it isn't limited to your own finite experience in this world. It's important to gain perspective. And age offers perspective.

In my upcoming mentoring experience, I'll be hearing a 9-year old's perspective on life in 2009. That's an entire lifetime post-y2k. I've been thinking about how, in my day to day activities, I don't always interact with this age range. I don't have kids. I am not a teacher. I love kids and see them often - but I don't have a chance to actually get to know them. To actually have a chance to form that relationship with them.

That was one thing I liked about babysitting and didn't like about clowning. I'd meet the coolest kids clowning, but rarely would I see them again. I learned once that a little girl had a picture of me (Butterfly) with her and kept it near her bed. She treasured this relationship, but I wasn't even aware of it until a year later when I came to clown at her next birthday party. I was this significant person in her life, and had no idea. It was sweet to learn that, but it almost made me sad.

Last night, I went to a friend's dad's birthday celebration. They recently relocated to live closer to their daughter. She's in her mid-thirties and she's awesome. And her parents are awesome. My friend invited her friends to celebrate with them. There was a good turnout and it was a ton of fun. Her parents seemed to have a blast. They were surrounded by new friends who had come out to celebrate with them.

Another friend of hers' parents also came out. I was struck by this couple. We chatted with them quite a bit. They were well dressed, in great physical shape. They live in the city. She's a former teacher and volunteers now. They've traveled and they're engaged in their community. They were very cool.

I left thinking about how much I appreciated that experience. We are a culture that loves compartmentalization. We live in our little worlds, interacting with people who look, think and act as we do. It's comfortable and we fall into a rut. When we do think of diversity, we often think of race or ethnic background. But I think age diversity is important to consider.

When we come and sit together at the same table, we are seeking the same things. We are humans seeking comfort. Seeking sustenance. Seeking fellowship. We bring our lives to the table - our hopes, dreams, adventures, regrets - our unique stories. We break bread and we laugh together. And we leave the table, every time, with a greater understanding of the human experience.

How does one keep from "growing old inside"? Surely only in community. The only way to make friends with time is to stay friends with people…. Taking community seriously not only gives us the companionship we need, it also relieves us of the notion that we are indispensable.

-Robert McAfee Brown

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