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  • Writer's pictureRichard A. Jones

Generation Gap??

Generation Gap??

The past several weeks, Barb and I have been watching a television series called A Million Little Things. It is about the lives of a group of eight friends, all in their 30’s and early 40’s, and their families. The suicide of one of them triggers their desire to stay more involved with one another. The sub-plots are woven around the support and encouragement among these friends as they live life.

The show is riddled with personal and relational angst. The writers of the show seem to have tried to cram into the lives of these friends (directly or indirectly), every personal or social issue that anyone could possibly encounter: suicide, cancer, death, euthanasia, separation, divorce, extra marital affair, teen sex, physical disabilities, bipolar, dementia, depression, bullying, racism, sexual orientation, pregnancy, sexual abuse, adoption, foster care, gender identity, substance abuse, abortion, immigration, elder care, unemployment, and homelessness. No kidding, all of these situations make an appearance in this series.

Throughout the show, most of the main characters are, have been, or will be, in therapy. Even the therapist of the group is in therapy. Please understand, I in no way want to minimize the trauma that people sometimes experience or the counseling that may be helpful…

…However I have been intrigued by the recurring phrases that seem to define the relationships of the people in this series. Here is a list of some of the ones I remember:

—What’s wrong? —I just want you to be safe.

—It’s not your fault. —Everything is going to be fine.

—You didn’t do anything wrong. —You can be anything you want to be.

—I’m sorry. —I was only trying to help.

—Are you o.k.? —You are amazing!

—Is everything alright? —Do you want to talk about it?

—Is anything wrong? —You deserve to be happy.

—I messed up. —I’m always here for you.

—You’ve been through a lot.

—I just want you to be happy.

—I was only trying to protect you.

In the harsh circumstances, that these people face, some of the phrases are appropriate, and the characters rise to the challenge of the situation. But, as the series unfolds, it seems that these soundbites become routine in their every day vocabulary.

Wrongs are concealed and lies are justified by saying, “I was just trying to protect you.” Anytime a person isn’t bubbly and smiling, everyone asks, “What’s wrong” or “Are you o.k.” The catch-all reason (or excuse) for just about anything that anyone does is, “You deserve to be happy.” And the subtitle for almost every episode could be “I’m sorry,” or “I messed up.”

I realize that I grew up in a different time, but when I was young, other than a very occasional “I’m sorry,” I don’t remember hearing any of these cliches. What I’m going say in the rest of this post may explain why. It may also tell you how old I am.


I played high school basketball in Indiana. At that time, Indiana was no-class basketball. This meant that It made no difference whether you had 50 or 5000 students in your school, there was only one state tournament. There was no seeding of the tournament, it began with a random drawing for each sectional. It was single elimination, so there was no second chance for a play-back. To win it all, a team had to win nine straight games on four consecutive weekends, with two games on each Saturday. The unspoken motto seemed to be “if you can’t take the heat, then get out of the kitchen.”

Of the fifteen largest high school gyms in America, fourteen of them are in Indiana. A state senator, speaking at a conference on building and upgrading school facilities, began his speech by saying, “In Indiana we keep school construction simple: we build a gym and then add classrooms.” Needless to say, Indiana took high school basketball very seriously. I say this to introduce you to a pare of my own personal story.


My H.S. Gym

Washington, Indiana

There were 800 students in our school and our gym seated over 7000. When I was a freshman in high school, about forty boys tried out for basketball. No one told us that we were all “amazing,” or that we could “be anything we wanted to be.” After all, only twenty of us were going to make the two freshman teams.

Me at 18

Every day, for the first two weeks of October, we all ran to the gym after lunch to see if our names were on the list to come to practice that day. If your name wasn’t on the list, it meant that you had been cut (didn’t make the team).

No one came around to say, “I’m sorry,” or to ask if you were o.k. Either your name was on the list or it wasn’t. One of my friends wrote in our year book that his most memorable event was going out for basketball four years and getting cut every year.

The most difficult year to be a starter on the varsity was as a senior. If a younger player was considered to be as good as you were, you would be on the bench. There were no special favors or rewards just for being a senior and showing up.

I had played on a basketball team every year since fifth grade, and except for my junior year, I had always been a starter. At the beginning of my senior year I was sixth man on our team. I knew that I was not the star player, but I wasn’t use to this, and I didn’t care much for it.

In our season opener that year, we had beaten Jasper in a close game. I came home and complained to my dad that I thought I should have played more. This was not a good idea, and I should have known better.

My dad had played and coached basketball in Indiana, and he wanted me to play. However, when I shared my delima with him, I did not hear him say: “I’m sorry,” “It’s not your fault,” “Are you o.k.,” “I just want you to be happy,” “You’ve been through a lot,” or “Do you want to talk about it.”

What I did hear him say was this: “Well, it seems to me that you have two options. You can work hard, find your place on the team, and accept it, or you can quit basketball and get a job. It’s up to you.”

In our second game that year, we played Springs Valley H.S. from French Lick, Indiana, hometown of NBA legend, Larry Bird. Larry was only in eighth grade at the time, but his older brother played. We got beat 67-58 (I didn’t remember this, I checked the yearbook). I don’t remember the details, but our coach was not pleased.

After the game, the coach came into the locker room. He did not ask “are you o.k?” And he did not say, “it’s not your fault,” What he did say was, “Get your practice gear on, I’m going to find somebody who wants to play ball.” It was 10:00 at night, this was not a suggestion or a question, and nobody had turned in a signed parent permission slip. In fact, I don’t think there was such a thing?

In that scrimmage I wore out my good friend Doug Worrell, our best player, who went on to play for the University of Houston. Of course he was tired from having played the whole game, so I did have a little advantage….I started every game for the rest of the season,

My parents went to most of our home games, and when they could afford it, they went to a few of our away games as well. When they couldn’t go, they listened to the game on the radio.

I usually felt supported and encouraged. However, to my dad, support and encourage did not mean coddle, pamper, and spoil. Encourage was often a synonym for challenge.

I was realistic enough to know that after graduation, I was not going to play at a division one school. However, I did have a couple of scholarship offers, and for the next four years, I started at point guard for a small college.


As I said earlier, In the t.v. series I have mentioned, the characters face some extremely difficult situations and are very supportive of one another. This is admirable.

However, they often butt into somebody’s business to try to “help” even when their help isn’t needed or asked for. They are always trying to fix something for somebody, when at times, what that somebody really needs is a good “kick in the pants” and a healthy dose of “get over it.”

The parents hover and smother their children to try to protect them and keep them happy. If their children want (not need, but want) something, the parents change their schedules, rearrange their plans, drop everything, and run to accommodate them. If their children even frown at them, the parents are devastated, and the children often seem more mature than the adults.

When one of the couples is expecting a baby, the man videos every Dr. appointment. When his wife has false labor, he won’t let her out of his sight and follows her around the entire day. He makes what he calls a “relaxing baby being born playlist.” When she really does go into labor, he tells his imaginary friend “Alexa” to play it, and asks two of his real friends to be there as his support group.

When Barb began labor pains with our first child, we had been out late and I was really tired. I rolled over in bed and said, “wake me up when the pains get closer together.” I admit that this was not my finest hour, but maybe something in the middle of these two scenarios would be a good response to a wife’s labor pains.


I don’t know, maybe there is a generation gap. As kids, we didn’t have “play days” with two moms present. When our chores were done, we created our own play days (no adults were allowed).

We ate blackberries straight off of the bush, and drank from a garden hose. We jumped out of swings onto hard packed dirt, slid down metal slides so hot they burned our legs, and rode bikes without wearing helmets.

We swam in muddy ponds without supervision, went fishing by ourselves, rode in the back of pick up trucks, climbed trees, swung on vines in the woods, and sometimes hid rocks in the snowballs we threw at each other.

We roamed through woods and fields and when we got a little older, we hunted on land that our family didn’t own (and the owners didn’t care). When I was in college, I continued hunting, and had a rifle under my bed in my dorm room. Today, I would be expelled from school and face jail time.

On top of all of this, we played hockey on frozen lakes using a tree limb for a stick and a beer can full of rocks for a puck. Although I’m pretty sure that they use better equipment, the Canadians call this pick-up game “shinny.”

This seemed appropriate to us, and we figured that the name was probably derived from what happened when our rock-filled beer can flew about a foot above the ice, and we failed to stop it before it slammed into the front of our lower leg (shin).

Sometimes our parents knew where we were and sometimes they didn’t.

I think they believed that we were capable of at least minimal common sense. They usually didn’t look for us, or expect us home until it got dark. And I’m pretty sure that their life goal was not to make sure that we felt happy every minute of every day.


I realize that my generation grew up in a different world and in a different way. We made our share of mistakes, as did my parent’s generation. In fact a few of the things we did as kids, probably shouldn’t have been done at all by anybody. Today, there are precautions that need to be taken which we never would have dreamed of.

But have we perhaps become too cautious? Have we become too fragile?

In trying so hard to be happy, have we ignored responsibilities? In our obsession with being safe, have we abandoned the search for truth, and lost our resiliency?

Is every inconvenience now considered a difficulty, and every difficulty thought of as a disaster? Have we disengaged from the good earth and the real world to retreat behind a computer screen and a cell phone? Have we lost our sense of adventure?

This is not just about kids playing and having fun. It’s about adults, being willing to seek the truth, pursue what is good, and do something worthwhile even when risk is involved.

Yes, today some precaution must be taken, but maybe there is at least a thread of truth in the words of author Bob Benson, “Your going out to live life. Don’t take too good care of yourself. Find some things that matter, stick your neck out, spill some blood, spread some love. The sin is not in breaking rules—it’s in holding back.”


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