Bridging the Gap

Karen Allen writes that when old and young people share their stories and work with each other, great things can happen

Recently it was my privilege to be part of a project commemorating the lives of the Windrush generation. The purpose of the project, called ‘Bridging the Gap’ and pioneered by Rudolph Walker MBE, was to capture their stories and celebrate their life journey since arriving in the UK from the Caribbean. During the project, which included a Caribbean-style tea party, the young people asked the questions, and the older generation provided the answers. It was awe-inspiring.

As the elders gave their testimonies and spoke of their trials and the turbulence of their journey, the young people were genuinely engaged, listening with intent and intrigue. The difference in age and experience between the generations did not in any way contaminate the connection; it was truly beautiful to behold.

Throughout the experience I was reminded of the story in the Bible about a relationship between two women who were very different. They were from different countries with different cultures; they were of different ages and had different aspirations; they had different experiences and different expectations… There was a gulf between these two women.

On the surface it would appear as though there was little or nothing that these two women could ever offer or possibly benefit from each other — their lives in many ways were worlds apart. They were not on the same page, but God had a plan that would connect them on purpose. Naomi was the elder in the story and Ruth was the younger.

You may not be familiar with the story in the book of Ruth, if not I urge you to read it, it’s a game changer. The way in which Ruth selflessly sacrificed her life to serve Naomi is loaded with symbolisms and success strategies. This young woman received a revelation that age, wisdom and experience were gifts that money couldn’t buy; these were treasures worth dying for. Such a profound revelation. In today’s culture, there is almost a complete contrast. Many young people are not taught to respect or reverence the age, wisdom or experience of their elders — not anymore. The older generation are often disregarded and disrespected; they are more often ignored and overlooked. This is a tragedy, because the “elders” — which I have officially earned the title of becoming — are priceless gifts, modern-day hidden treasures. Ruth recognised this and, ultimately, she received a magnanimous reward.

As I approach 50 — five decades, which is half a century! — there is a sense of urgency that it is incumbent upon me to share my gifts and treasures with the world. I will lie full and die empty. I must. To the generation of young women following my path whether they know it or not, it is my duty to lead, to teach and to inspire with excellence, in a way that encourages and empowers them to do the same. There are so many lessons life has taught me and so many principles that have paved my path. I want to leave it all with this generation of ‘Ruths’. Three of the most important lessons, one of which is more recent, include the VALUE of VISION and VULNERABILITY. 

  1. Value: You are worthy and you are enough. Society will deceive you into thinking otherwise but you truly are. Do not allow culture to define you; your value was decided before you were created. Life may crush you, bruise you or break you, but life can never devalue you. 
  • Vision: What you see is what you get. This is a spiritual and very biblical principle. God told Abram that as far as he could see, the land would be his. What he received was dependent upon what he could see. Your vision is as valuable as you are. Without a vision people perish. 
  • Vulnerability: There is such value in being vulnerable. This is a gift I would give a young woman as early as possible. I would urge her, plead with her, and almost beg her to be vulnerable. It is a superpower that many people, especially women, especially Black women, are unaware of. 

At my age, with my wisdom and according to my experience, I have concluded that if the older generation and the younger generation would begin by simply exchanging stories for strategies, they would be stronger together and would reap the bountiful blessings and benefits connected with bridging the gap.

Karen Allen is a minister, personal development coach, and activist changing the narrative for young people and Black men. She is author of Thou Art The Man, a book for men. Visit www.karenallen.info

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