There was an opinion piece in the Chicago Tribune earlier this year that stuck with me. Its title was “Millennials’ Surprise: There Isn’t an App to Solve All Problems.” The writer mused on my generation, the Millennial generation, and our political and economic leanings. He concluded by saying this:
“[Millennials] do have some good ideas. Technology and freedom can and will solve many of our problems.
But not all of them.
For the toughest ones, the ones involving compassion and difficult choices, there will be no app.”
That last sentence is what stuck with me. It led me to wonder, honestly, whether my generation understands compassion.
Sure, we may understand it in the trendy sense. We tweet and post using the hashtags of the latest social justice movements. We buy groceries and clothes at retailers committed to only using suppliers with ethical practices. And so on.
But do we understand compassion in the sense that we are personally willing to sacrifice our comfort, our time, and our resources (currently, an annual income of about $15,000 puts one among the richest ten percent of the world population) to those who would benefit?
Speaking for myself, I think I have a lot of room to grow in this area. I donate time and money, but not quite to the level where I have actually felt the sacrifice. And I think that many of my generational peers are the same way.
Technology, especially modern communication technology, brings with it responsibility. In this age of constant information, it is easier than ever to know what is happening all over the world, almost as it is happening. Thus, it is easier than ever to see the pain and suffering in the world, almost as it is happening.
And social media makes it easy to “respond.” It takes but seconds to retweet or share a news article or picture demonstrating the suffering in some far away place, or even a place not so far geographically but far away culturally. And I think we secretly want to keep it far away. We “do our part” by “raising awareness,” and maybe we take time to read more or make a token donation, but that is often as far as we go.
I say this not to indicate that my generation should abandon our comfortable lives and immediately head to the darkest places of the world and solve all the problems. Most of us lack the knowledge, skills, and practical resources and strategies to do so. But we can still do more. We can give a little more of our wealth. We can move beyond discussing with our friends and discuss with our elected officials and organizations that can do the work to address the suffering in our world.
Some of us can directly work to solve the injustices in this world. The Millennial generation is a very transient and mobile generation. We can go to the places, whether at home or abroad, where there is great need. That same technology that makes it easier to discover the problems also makes it easier to connect with others to pool our resources and find the solutions. (tweet to share)
But the key is compassion. We have to realize how blessed we are, and desire to be a blessing to others. The word compassion literally means, “to suffer with.” Is my generation – am I – willing to suffer with the world, and in doing so to help end the suffering and help all peoples of this world flourish? Can my generation be known as the compassionate generation? I hope so. One source (globalrichlist.com) gave me $13,750 as the figure and another (givingwhatwecan.org) gave me $16,300, so I averaged the two.
Eric Joseph Rubio is an arts administrator, church musician, music educator, and blogger from Chicago, Illinois. His passion is to help people and organizations flourish. Eric is proud to be part of the Millennial generation. Visit his website or follow him on Twitter.