Mentoring generation

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

Jose M. Montelibano

What is it about life that we do not want to let go of it? And to think that we started clinging to it even before we can ever remember. In fact, we are told that the baby inside the womb is already wired to survive and stays in a natural environment that truly sustains life. It is no wonder that most of humanity considers life as the first and greatest gift of the Creator.

It is becoming a regular thing among many classmates of mine, who are celebrating our jubilees 50 years after high school and college, to meet and savor the last stage of our lives. We must be about the most grateful in the world for having reached and are surpassing, the average life span of Filipinos. And we are thrilled that major advances in medical science point to longer years with better health care knowledge and facilities. 

However, our gatherings and discussions are a mixture of gratitude and concern. While we have survived all trials that life dished out to us, we are confronted with a continuing present that does not give us great confidence in a bright future. That future is not mostly ours but rather the future of our families and our country. It used to be when we were much younger than the future was quite predictable. As baby-boomers who tasted the global peace after World War II and the great economic growth that followed after great destruction, our collective lives tasted peace for many decades. Sporadic wars had broken out in hot spots around the world but these have never reached the scale of the world wars in the first half of the 20th century.

The major discoveries of science and technology in the last 75 years managed to bring corresponding changes to human life. The last 30 years, though, have witnessed unbelievable inventions and applications that have dramatically disrupted the previous pattern of societal lives. It is a firm truism that when one to deeply understand something new, life can never go back to what it was. A knowledge that has been translated into mainstream technology forces visible and felt changes in society. We baby boomers have experienced all of these in the last 70 years.

How come, then, that despite our gratitude for all we have been blessed with, there remains a considerable amount of concern, even apprehension? I realize that part of our uneasiness is that change has been accompanied by unfamiliar speed and radical forms. Both great speed and radical forms have developed a momentum that tells us there will be more of the same, that it will not be ending soon. In fact, we have this sense that what we found radical is mild compared to what is coming.

Our concern and apprehension also relate to our insecurity about our value in society.  We do not at all believe that we have not experienced much, that we have not achieved much, and that we do not have wisdom and insights from our life-long experiences. But that increased valuation we may have of ourselves will amount to little if we pasture it as much as we pasture our tired bodies. In order words, though our mobility and agility have lessened considerably, our experience, insights and accumulated wisdom more than makes up for it.

Whatever we have become, what we have achieved and what we had learned from both mistakes and successes, are solid mentoring assets. At the moment, we do share that with our families. But even septuagenarians can be effective mentors for more than just our families. A society that is struggling with its own evolution and development can profit much from what we have – both from our achievements and our mistakes. Our mistakes, especially, must not be misunderstood as correct just because we were too proud to admit them before.

Mistakes. Personal mistakes, Generational mistakes. All our mistakes weakened us at first. They disturbed our lives, our careers, and our families. There were some that we never recovered from. They destroyed relationships, even the best ones. Most of us did not make many of these. That is why we were able to sustain our relationships in our families and our communities. And if we were able to do so, it is because we learned from these mistakes and made the necessary corrections. Sometimes, too, life was kind and gave us favorable circumstances that cushioned the negativity of those serious errors.

In the course of making our mistakes, of realizing them, of correcting them, and of seeing how our lives corrected themselves at the end of the process, our learning gave us unique lessons that are hard to simply absorb through books and lectures. Somehow, in the process of learning from our mistakes and developing our insights, we found new talents, the ones made and not simply a gift of birth and inheritance. Much of our personal wisdom evolved with these.

If our generation has anything to leave behind that can be a blessing to the ones who will follow us, it must be our wisdom. Of course, some of us have amassed wealth through our business or political acumen – wealth that can be enjoyed by our families even when we are gone. Most of us, though, will not have great wealth to gift our families with. We will have, though, great experiences, great learning, great insights and powerful stories that can inspire. These are great gifts not only for our families but for our communities and maybe country itself.

With many among my age, there is this realization that we are in possession of a different wealth that can be our greater legacy than money or property. I hope that we find it in us to shake off our doubts and fears, cross our comfort zones, and discover the power of our wisdom, and find the courage to share the greatest blessings of our lives.

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