To Have a Friend in Every Decade

It stung when the teenage girl hung her head, blonde curls falling into her eyes, “I wanted to talk to someone older about it,” she said, “but I really don’t have anybody.”

Days afterward, I was still thinking about what a tragedy that was. She was part of a church.

How is it possible for someone who is part of a church to say that she doesn’t have anybody older to talk to? One of the reasons God gave us the church is so that we would have access to wisdom from every age and stage of life.

But so often we don’t have each other because young people do not know how to break into the lives of older people. Older people don’t think younger people want to be in their lives at all.

Immediately, I started thinking of ways to fix this problem of generational disconnection.

I decided there was an easy step that I could begin right away. Not a program but an intention. What if I were deliberate about having a friend in every decade? I made a chart and started listing the friends I had in the 1-10 category, the 11-20 category, the 21-30 category and so on. Before I made the chart, I would have thought I had a balance across the chart.

Immediately, I noticed that I had holes or weaknesses in certain decades, and I sought to remedy that without delay. To begin that day. Procrastination is a ploy that the enemy uses to pull us just far enough away from a goal that we forget how it tastes. I had an upcoming business trip to Nashville, so I aligned my decade chart with my trip. There was a deficit in the 20 yr. old decade, so I thought of a 24 yr. old girl I knew in Nashville with whom I had had a wonderful conversation with ONCE. Would she like to meet for coffee, I wondered?

Prepared to hear that she did not have time (or interest), I contacted her. When she was open to meeting, I was thrilled, hoping she would be able to meet for at least 30 minutes before she had to get on with her day.

Actually, we talked and laughed for two and a half hours. I don’t know if God would have had me pour wisdom into her life or her pour wisdom into mine, but by the end of our fireside lattes, I was sure it had happened both ways.

Wonderful friends across the decades, hear this:

The years between us are not a wall but a gift. I need to connect regularly with someone whose age is some distance away in order to gain perspective on the life that is right in front of my face.

Please don’t think that younger people do not have time for you. Ask. If you get a no, ask someone else until you get a yes. There are people out there who want an older person to talk to. One of the sweetest friends of my lifetime was an 87 year-old woman I knew when I was 27. There were sixty years between us– sixty! –and I loved dropping by her house to play a fierce game of dominoes, eat fried chicken, and visit. I didn’t go because someone told me to; I went because I wanted to.

I miss her to this day.

Please do not let age distance keep you from someone who could be one of your favorite friends. Extend your arms to have a friend in every decade. It will always be worth the reach.

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Nika Maples: Texas Secondary Teacher of the Year, author, and stroke survivor

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