Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Why Us Old Folks Need to Still Be Around

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-banks-20111217,0,6676350.column">Retired Los Angeles judge launches literacy project

The above is a link to a wonderfully inspiring piece I read in last Sunday's L.A. Times about retired Judge James Reese. Appropos to the holiday season of giving, I invite you to take a few minutes to read this article by Sandy Banks.

Anyone who has ever sat through a "Psych-101" type of class may have a passing knowledge of the life-stages theory of Erik Erikson. As I read about Judge Reese's recent $100,000 gift to USC--to kick-start a local literacy program--I immediately thought of Stage 7, Generativity versus Stagnation.

From his seat on the bench in Compton, Judge Reese saw human costs of poor education. When he sentenced young men to what we now call "community service," the recidivism rate was often driven by the offenders' inability to read instructions, and hence hold the jobs that kept them out of jail. Later, the judge's learned through online research that illiteracy rates, in some areas, were used as an index of future needed number of jail cells. So, here's evidence of the ripple effect of illiteracy -- personal, societal, legal, judicial. So much easier to educate a youth and make him/her a productive citizen, rather than clean up after his/her despair later on, you think?

Generativity is simply a fancy word for the ability and willingness of the older generation to care for, and contribute to the growth and future success, of the succeeding generation. Judge Reese, at age 92, has done more than just have concern for young men's education. He has put that feeling into action by providing means to facilitate their ability to read. His mother before him had modeled the importance of basic skills in becoming independent members of society.

Bob Seeger is another one who continues to provide inspiration for boomers and younger pop artists. I read about him in today's L.A. Times Calendar section. He's 70 now, and says that he could be retire at any time. Still, in the meantime, he's got the likes of Garth Brooks paying tribute. Seeger's craft has spanned several generations. I, myself, can hear something on the radio that Seeger recorded, and go back to that time in my life. He's a generational touchstone. Who can't remember where they where when they first heard "Night Moves?" How sweet is that?

So, whether it's a retired judge, or an old rock-and-roller, giving money for education or performing for artistic enrichment, we "geezers" are really needed by the succeeding generations, whether they admit it or not. And as we move through the holidays into the New Year, we have more gifts to give to the world. It's our job to make sure we're useful until we're gone, and that our influences will be felt even after. That, everyone, is what generativity is all about.





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