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  • Writer's pictureJKB

Introducing: The Mask Generation!

My recent COVID conversations have evolved from “I wonder how the pandemic will impact jobs, church engagement, real estate, the economy, education, on and on…” into “I wonder how this will mark the youngest generation”.

Sociologists, authors, and bloggers always want to be the first to label generations. So many want to be the first to christen people born between this year and this year as “Generation [name]”.

They look for events or innovations significant enough to potentially create a categorically different community of people because of a categorically altered environment in which they spend their formative years.

These aren’t bumps in the road. These are new roads.

Though names vary, there are popular labels like…

- “The Greatest Generation” spawned from a World War II call to heroism,

- “Baby Boomers” growing up with post-War parents and more kids-per-capita than in generations previous,

- and the less creatively-named, but profoundly distinct “Millennials” are internet natives who have more optimism for possibility than their “can’t fool me” predecessors, GenX.

I don’t know what we’ll call it, but it’s hard to imagine this COVID season won’t leave an indelible mark on the emerging population.

It’s a year of ruptured education.

It’s a year of sputtering faith traditions.

It’s a year of invisible horrors you could catch or transmit.

It’s a year of higher addictions, depression and suicide rates than ever recorded.

It’s a year of Mom losing her job, the family having to move back in with grandparents, or friends moving away to survive.

These aren’t bumps in the road. These are new roads.

I don’t know what we’ll call this.

(I propose “The Mask Generation”…it’s a nice break from the lettering trend and can have a double meaning of precaution and superhero.)

But it’s important to predict—and thus, counteract—the effects these months may leave on us.

The Mask Generation (I’m gonna keep trying to make that a thing) will potentially…

- …see “free” money from the government as a default way to address crises, potentially inflating the value of now and over future generations,

- …see physical interaction and cultural mores as seasonal and risky,

- …know about the pandemic, be defined by the pandemic, but not have experience from bearing the brunt of decision-making during the pandemic (this is a big thing that “happened to me”, so what could victimize me next?)

- …leverage tech and, thus, shape AI’s without hesitation or care for privacy because this is how we save time, live life, and support people.

There are so many more for sure, but I’ll stop there.

I won’t say that these impressions are positive or negative. They just are.

And, whether you think this will affect you or the kids or not, we all are going through something that we can share. Like many of us can remember where we were when the towers fell on 9/11, we will all remember what we were doing, what our churches were doing, what our schools were doing to endure COVID-19.

And, regardless of how this shapes you in your particular generation, I’m optimistic it’s given us a great appreciation/urgency for…

- …finding facts through the din of headlines

- …finding community within the crowd of acquaintances

- …finding purpose transcendent of occupation

- …building financial health before financial strain

But there’s one urgency that will only grace us if we choose it. I would hope that this moment will impress on every generation that faith matters. In other words, it matters what you do with what you say you believe.

For instance…

- …even though life feels fragile, I live without fear because death isn’t the end.

- …even when my life is impacted, my life can still make an impact.

- …even though leaders waver, my God keeps promises.

- …even though I won’t always feel like it, I will stay committed.

- …even though my routine is disrupted, I will keep nurturing intimacy with God

- …even though we’re distant, I will not go it alone

Wouldn’t it be incredible if that was the defining mark of the population that went through this together?

I don’t know if it will be, but I want it to be true of me.

I want it to be true of you.

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