In a previous column, I discussed some of the pros and cons of growing older.

There is no doubt that history and cultural influence frames each generation’s world view differently. In generational terms, I am classified as a “baby boomer.” I was born following WW2 in the late ’40s “baby boom” as the country returned to the normalcy of peacetime life. I see many things differently than my “millennial” generation counterparts. 

There are benefits to aging, whether aging comes on gracefully, or not. One advantage is knowledge gleaned from merely living long enough. 

One disadvantage is the ill-timed jokes an older body can play on its once-proud owner as our physiological warranty approaches expiration. These types of references are different for each generation. 

Regarding generational knowledge, my generation knows that “Spanky & Our Gang” is not an adult film. We know that the Keystone Cops are not from Pennsylvania. But many of us have no idea who Dustin Beaver is or what is a “Lollapalooza?”   

If you are a millennial and you sneeze, that’s all you do. If you are a baby boomer and sneeze, age may have gifted you with a couple of spontaneous options that may or may not be socially sophisticated. Behold the emotional pain and embarrassment of your own body’s betrayal.

Anyway, it has been scientifically proven that those who have more birthdays live longer. So I’m going with science.

I believe most of us are passionate about some social or political issue in our lives. I admire the passion of youth when it comes to causes. They let nothing dampen their spirits. The world needs dreamers because dreamers get things done. I was young once. I’m sure of it because I have occasional flashbacks and own a few Polaroid photographs not suitable for public scrutiny.

If you believe in something, invest in it. Along with others, many millennials actively support movements addressing climate change, preventing habitat destruction or providing clean water for impoverished peoples around the world. The interests of other generational groups may vary. Regardless of your desire for change, devote your money, your emotion, your time and your conviction to it. Use all of the gifts and talents you have been blessed with. Go all in. Or go home.

Astronomy and planetary science are a couple of my many interests. I wonder what cosmic “Gotcha” we Earthlings could suffer, leading to an extinction event. A surprise comet or asteroid strike could mean “Game Over” for us as a species. It could happen tomorrow. Perhaps a sizeable gamma-ray burst from the bowels of space drops the hammer on humankind. Talk about habitat destruction and climate change.

A coronal mass ejection from our Sun could destroy Earth’s power grid. We could then find ourselves enjoying all the modern conveniences befitting a centuries-past lifestyle. This event would redefine the meaning of “lights out.” 

No telling how bad it could get if the Yellowstone super-volcano erupts for a command performance. 

The catastrophic possibilities are endless. I hesitate even to mention the Zombie apocalypse.

The bottom line is that I can’t worry 24/7/365 about possible natural disasters. While I hope and pray for the future of humanity, I accept that there’s little I can do about it materially in my everyday existence.

So, here’s what I CAN do with my time that does make a difference in our world. Realizing that I cannot help everyone collectively, I can help many on an individual basis. 

There are countless ways I can volunteer in my community. I can tutor a child. I can work in the special needs community. I can serve at a homeless shelter. I can work at a food bank. I can do yardwork for the elderly. 

There is no end to the opportunities to serve my neighbor. I believe we are obligated to help and attend to one another. Therein lies our true humanity. It’s through our love for and service to each other.

There are things that we can all join together to accomplish, regardless of our generational identity. Often the newspaper you are reading speaks to the needs of our community. It is an excellent source for leads to organizations that are doing God’s work on behalf of others. 

Don’t let go of the causes you believe in. But don’t let them become your singular identity either. You define them. They do not define you. Building a better world begins with building a better community for ourselves and our neighbors. 

After all is said and done, loving charity begins at home. I pray that’s something we can all agree on. Doing better is done in baby steps, not huge strides. 

Start small — but start now.

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