June 1, 2008

Comments on Boomer Happiness

I have, for some time, been curious about those who post extensive comments on newspaper or news reporting sites. Are they contributing to a true conversation, or are they simply expressing the lack of something productive to occupy their in-between moments?

Last week, I read Rochelle Riley's column in the Detroit Free Press. Here, she profiled Karen Farmer's personal coaching consultancy, Midlife's A Trip. Farmer, a former corporate attorney, is a certified lifestyle coach who assists clients in navigating the touchy and sometimes treacherous waters of midlife. I am actively working my way into this transition, and thought I might find something useful on the site's blog.

The highlight of Riley's column wasn't Farmer's bio or blog. The highlight was the single comment I found at the bottom of the screen. The comment's author, identified only by a screen name consisting of a jingle-jangle assortment of letters and numbers, gave a cutting, somewhat angry response to Farmer's assertion that her drive for personal happiness motivated her to abandon her unsatisfying career and teach other baby boomers how to make money and create happiness. Here are the comments:

"This article describes everything that is wrong about this self-centered baby boomer generation that will ultimately bankrupt our country. Nobody ever calls this generation out because nobody wants to lose the opportunity to sell merchandise and services to this massive segment of our population. This generation has spearheaded the moral decay and bankrupt values reflected in out current society. Divorce rates, drug use, sexual promiscuity, explosion of consumer debt, the breakdown of the nuclear family and mass consumerism can all be directly attributed to this "baby boomer" generation."

Can we actually blame the selfishness of those born between 1946 and 1964 for all of America's ills? After all, weren't many of the the boomers raised by "The Greatest Generation?" I doubt all of the blame can be laid in the laps of baby boomers, but I found a ring of truth in these comments. The great challenge for boomers must be to balance the need for personal fulfillment with meaningful sacrifice and service. If my meaningful sacrifice creates happiness and opportunity for someone else, haven't I repaid myself ?

I don't believe in karma, but I do believe in reaping and sowing:

Galatians 6:7-10 (New International Version)

New International Version (NIV)

Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

7Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature[a]will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. 9Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

It's hard to stick with, but the reaping must come first. If I want happiness, I have to invest in the happiness of others, both near and far. Breaking ground, planting, weeding, and watering are workful (yes, that's a word) and sacrificial, but that's how I create something to take back from the earth.

I will be repaid. This is the assurance God provides. My obligation is to plant, live as happily as I can on a daily basis, and wait for the plants to grow. Do I have a "right" to be happy? That's a tough question; who wants a life of meaningless misery? My best answer is to say I have a right to pursue as much happiness as I am willing to plant in the lives of others.

If only I'd had a coach to show me all of this way back when!

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