According to supposed generational characteristics, I function inside the crease between The Silent and Baby Boomer generations. To say that another way, I don’t fit either description. That’s why I prefer to think of my generational self with the same moniker as the tune for the hymn “For All the Saints”—sine nomine (literally “without a name” in Latin).
I now consider myself an older adult. No getting around that designation. But what variety of “old person” am I? There are old people, old-old people, too-soon-old people and ageless old people. At my age, I am comprised from bits and pieces of each of those kinds of older adult.
Perhaps like you, though, I don’t like being squeezed into someone else’s quasi-categories. There might be an advantage to be un-nameable. Something a lot more positive, perhaps even exciting. Because I am an in-between generations—or both-generations—guy, I have the pleasure of being a bridge between age cohorts.
The Silent Generation part of me knows intimately the artifacts and sensitivities of those born ten to twenty years before me. I grew up listening to the radio; I made copies with carbon paper and learned to keyboard on an actual typewriter. I can still drive a stick-shift car and remember the routines of comedians from the previous century! What’s “classical” is precious to my sense of self.
As part-Boomer—and maybe part-Millennial and even part-GenYer—I am a regular consumer of online news and an e-mail correspondent with many. I strain against outdated approaches, and worry about their future with parents of young children. I agonize about immoral leaders. I sometimes struggle with tech-addiction.
As an age-bridger, I can be like my parents. In their late 70s and early 80s, their personal ministry was visting “the old people” in their church. (For them, “old” meant someone home-bound or otherwise frail.) They were well-received by those with whom they interacted—also including young parents. Spanning their ageless landscape, my parents operated as hope- and comfort-bringers precisely because they, too, could not be pigeonholed into the characteristics of their supposedly silent generation. I always admired that about them.
I like this no-name idea. Sometimes I think of myself as a kind of Jack-in-the-Box, ready to delight those around me with the sudden surprises of unexpected grace and favor. Startling questions, out-of-the-box ideas. Sine nomine, I enjoy the challenge and responsibility of helping decision makers incorporate lessons from the past. I get excited when I can join others in the boisterous creation of “what-if” scenarios for their lives. I am honored to gather around me whatever ageless fragments of wisdom I have discovered and share them with those who search for assurance inside their chaotic contexts. I work hard to listen deeply, with ears tuned to the past and also prepared for the sounds of the future. I explore intensely the contexts of our current culture, scanning for hopeful, actionable signs of God’s hand. I’ve been around lots of trees, but am always looking for new ones to encircle—or climb.
How about you? What kind of “older adult” are you? Or what sort of elder do you hope to become? How are you already a bridge among peopled categories? What name(s) would you give to yourself—or not? Where do you pop out of boxes and surprise people with indescribable love and care?
However you answer, this assurance: Sine nominee or not, you are a hymn-worthy saint!