By Dick Gillett
Stephen bent over his loom, quiet, watchful and steady. A special contrast, as every man was, in the forest of looms where Stephen worked, to the crashing, smashing, tearing piece of machinery at which he labored.
—From Hard Times, by Charles Dickens
It’s 9:01 on a Wednesday morning as I enter Herkimer Coffee up on Phinney Ridge for my usual caffeine fix. Along the shop’s left wall, an array of people sit at tables, coffee cups within reach, laptops open, heads down—as if the factory whistle just blew and the working class had filed in and bent over their machines.
In contrast, as a “retired worker” I mosey in and take my “work station” in front of barista Chad, who sees me and reaches for the macchiato cup; he knows my drink.
In casual conversation, he and Sean, the other barista on duty, both reveal they grew up as only children, which was my also my situation. (Naturally we understand this makes us special).
This brief palaver serves to lighten me up a bit after reading the print edition (I’m afraid I’m a print news junkie) of The New York Times. The paper continues to tell us about the unending crisis of refuges flooding into Europe, Putin’s Russian jets now in Syria, and the latest special absurdity of much of our domestic political news.
Of course the laptop “working class” image above is my fantasy. But in my mind, it serves to separate me from my fellow human beings of the succeeding generations. (For instance I don’t have a laptop and only clumsily use instant messaging.) But as it frequently does, the sight of younger people at Herkimer’s—busily working away (or goofing off)—fills me with a certain longing. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have an intergenerational dialogue? An honest-to-goodness dialogue about our insane world, inasmuch as we are all bound together as citizens traveling on Planet Earth?
On the other hand, there would be those who with much justification—seeing as how we of the older generations have screwed up pretty much everything—would say, “And what do you, old-timer, have to tell us to our edification?” My response might be, “And how do you, one or two generations removed from me, see yourself and your families, especially your children, in relation to our current and future world?”
Could a starting point be a reflection on Pope Francis’ recent visit to the U.S.? I hear that there are intergenerational dialogues going on here and there on such topics, some even within reach of our Phinney Neighborhood Association. Might our own PNA Village be a catalyst for such?
· · ·
Author Dick Gillett is a Member of PNA Village and a retired Episcopal priest. He has written numerous articles for our Village blog including, “Martín’s Journey to the White House”, “Johnny Cash & Global Warming”, and “Monthly Book Group at Couth Buzzard”.