When we used to make fliers for our youth group activities at the center, we would always make sure to put, “Who: the young and the young at heart”. A lot of this culture and generation gap can be made much less significant if we tried to bridge the age gap.
It’s easy to notice that those parents, elders, and “non-youth” who participate, or even just sit in the back of the youth group programs or discussions, are usually the ones who are more open-minded when it comes to discussing current topics. They are usually the ones who are more in tune with what is going on today, like what their kids in school are going through, or even if they are grandparents, what their grandkids are going through. They are more aware of the “youth” perspective and always try to understand it, be it through dialog or through attending programs that are put on by the young people of the community.
So to all the “elders” out there who don’t think they are young enough to take part in programs or activities going on for the youth, there are many ways to stay “active”. I’m not talking about physically active, but rather mentally and spiritually. Many adults we find today are very set in their ways and may even feel that the Islam they are following and practicing is the Islam that is right, Halal, and absolutely sufficient and perfect.
There are many ways that we can ensure that we stay active in seeking knowledge, both religious and otherwise. For example, one center in North America has created an “Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq Senior Citizens’ Club”, in which they get together every two Sundays to talk about health issues, business, books, current events, etc. Such support groups are key. We have to keep in mind what Islam says about our friends and who stay close with. We have to ensure that our friends are the ones who point and pick out our faults, and not just praise us 24/7. Gathering together, no matter what age group, is what will build a good bond between brothers and sisters and our communities.
If we take the effort and try and help close this idea that the youth and the old are two different creatures, we can get somewhere. Most of our complaints are that the adults do not understand the youth, but what are we doing about it? We need to keep in mind that perseverance and sincerity in helping Islam grow will take effort on everyone’s behalf. In order to prove to someone who we are and what we are not, they must know us and hear our feedback and views. If we youth like to complain about our adults being out of touch, we must take the initiative ourselves and bridge the age gap.
Take the challenge and arrange a “hang out” day where every youth spends time with an adult and learns about his or her life, how their childhood was, what they did for fun, etc. Organize a friendly sporting event and have both youth and the elderly participate. We must make sure that our elders do not solely rely on the community committees to put together something when our own brains and bodies are bustling with energy, ideas, and the ability to make their lives active and fulfilling even in their prime.