A New Generation
Read the New York Times any Sunday and you will find a plethora of self-help books listed on the non-fiction bestseller list. Look at the titles and the definition of self-help narrows. The majority of the books are about finding financial and professional success. The assumption is that committing to the American capitalist spirit is the only meaningful route to a satisfying life.
I spend a lot of time in New York. It is not one city, but many. Head downtown on a weekday and all you will see are business suits and wingtips. Everyone is in a rush. There is money to be made, or lost, quickly, imminently, immediately.
Head a mile east and you are in Cobble Hill, or Carroll Gardens, and just a little southeast of that, Park Slope. These are Brooklyn neighborhoods. I once approved a single mom for adoption who had just purchased a brownstone in Park Slope for $90,000. It was 1983. It’s worth a couple of million dollars now. To say Brooklyn has become gentrified is a bit of an understatement. But the vide in Brooklyn is different from the feel of Manhattan. Boomers don’t live in Brooklyn. Millennials do. And they do not see success as an apartment on the trendy Upper West Side or exclusive Upper East Side. They want community, accessibility, friendship, and – well – a good life. They do not believe more is better. They believe better is better.
My son pastors a rapidly growing church in Brooklyn. It is externally focused, intent on reconciling the entire creation to the creator. The church serves the poor, teaches immigrant adults and children, counsels anyone in need, and fully participates in the life of the community. If you go to the tiny apartments of those who inhabit this church, you are not likely to find the latest treatise on “leaning in to work” or how to negotiate for success. You are likely to find the essays of Wendell Berry and the theology of Richard Rohr.
The generation inhabiting Brooklyn is growing, and it is a good thing too. They understand and appreciate the words of Parker Palmer: “There is no punishment worse than to conspire in our own diminishment.” This is a generation that watched their Boomer parents travel quickly from flower child to Wall Street tycoon. They sold out and it was ugly. These people do not want to do the same.
As I watched the Millennials migrate to Brooklyn, I questioned whether or not their generation would meet the same fate as their parents. I am pleased to observe they have not, at least not yet. They remain committed to family and community. They want to work hard, earn a fare wage, and participate in helping the world become a better place – really – they do. And that single mom whose brownstone is now worth a cool two million? Well, good for her. I have little doubt she will make good decisions about what to do with it.