May6ThuWe’re still here and still serving. May 6, 2021 by Cadet Beverly Burton
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Generation X. We’re still here. I just thought I’d mention that. Born after the boomers and before the millennials, I think we sometimes feel a little overlooked in all the talk lately about those other two groups. I feel that way, so I wonder if others do, as well. So, gen X—this is for you. I know you’re still here and still serving. I hear you.
We’re a funny lot, aren’t we? We came of age on the cusp between the modern and post-modern age. We witnessed the rise of the information age and embraced it. When I was a teenager, we still had one of those big square TVs in a wooden cabinet and a hi-fi record player/stereo system in another cabinet that took up almost an entire wall. Now I watch movies and listen to music on a device that fits in the palm of my hand. Since my mid-teen years, when I had to learn how to program the VCR (a cliché, but true), I have learned new technology after new technology. I may not be as tech-savvy as some, but I have experience on my side.
We have seen the world change. I was born during the Cold War, but in college I watched as the Berlin Wall fell. As a child, Europe was half a world away away, but in 1997, I watched Princess Diana’s funeral on live TV and mourned with the world. Suddenly half a world was not as far. Since then, our world has gotten even smaller. I can speak to my brother in England whenever the mood strikes, at no cost except for the monthly internet fee. When I was a child, that would have been unthinkable. I suppose if all of this says anything about generation X, it’s that we have become used to adapting, used to change.
Those of you who think that millennials invented consumerism have probably forgotten a few things. In the 1980s, when I was in high school, we were watching movies like Wall Street, The Secret of My Success and Trading Places. All movies about making it big in business. We practically invented the quest for the almighty dollar. But here’s the thing. It’s not the 1980s anymore. Sure, when I get in the car, I still like to listen to loud rock music, but I don’t really want to go back to that time. We have changed—as we do—with the passing decades. We are embracing new ways of thinking and realizing what’s important in life.
When we were young, many of us walked away from the church or came close to doing it. So, millennials, we hear you in that regard if that’s how you’re feeling. I have always loved being a part of The Salvation Army. I grew up with it and admit that I get nostalgic for brass band music and the sound of timbrels. But I have also watched as The Salvation Army has grown and changed and embraced new technology and new ways of doing things. This is especially true in the technology-heavy time of doing church during a pandemic. Officers all over our territory—many of them gen-Xers themselves—are doing what we have always done: adapting to what needs to be done. Embracing the new where it has value, but not forgetting the past. For example, I still love ’80s rock music, but I also listen to K-pop with my daughter sometimes.
We’re coming back to embrace our responsibility. We walked away during the rebellious “look out for number one” time of our youth. But we know that we are still needed. In 1986, the band Genesis released the song Land of Confusion.
This is the world we live in
And these are the hands we’re given
Use them and let’s start trying
To make it a place worth living in
I won’t be coming home tonight
My generation will put it right
We’re not just making promises
That we know, we’ll never keep
We’re not the peace-and-love generation. We were the rebellious, anti-establishment generation. But really, we’ve always wanted to put things right. We still want that. Many of us are changing careers mid-life to do just that. You might be surprised to know that there are several cadets from generation X among the Messengers of Grace Session here at the College for Officer Training in Winnipeg. We still listen to our music too loud, and we still question everything. But we love God and desire to serve him in the way he calls us. We are the change makers. We’re still stubborn and rebellious, but we’re devoted to God and to telling the world about him. We are generation X.
Cadet Beverly Burton is a member of the Messengers of Grace Session.