One of the things I love best about hearing tales of “the good old days” is the camaraderie between neighbors and the kinship that linked generations. Little girls learned how to be women simply by being with the women in their lives. Cooking, keeping house, taking care of babies — all the ins and outs of womanhood were learned as a matter of course, simply by one generation absorbing these things from previous ones.
This old-fashioned, front-porch style of passing on values and skills seems lost on my generation. In part, because we are simply too busy to be involved in each other’s lives and, in part, because we are a very scattered generation of young folk.
A lot of us live hours — or even states — away from our parents and extended family. Our generation has more technology at its fingertips than previous ones ever dreamt possible; email, instant messaging, texting and cell phones all enable us to keep in touch with loved ones, literally at the touch of a button.
Yet we are more emotionally distant and withdrawn from those around us than generations past. How many of us know more about our next-door neighbors than their first names? How many times have we invited friends from church into our home or visited in the homes of our pastor or church family?
One of the greatest challenges of being a twenty-first century woman is letting your guard down and being “real” with people.
Since we’ve lost the “connectedness” of our grandmothers and great-grandmothers, we somehow feel we have to live up to an image projected by Hollywood. You know what I’m talking about. The illusion that real womanhood revolves around keeping up on the latest fashions, filling your home with designer furniture, driving expensive vehicles, having picture-perfect kids and a successful, mannequin-handsome husband.
If we find our lives falling short of this picture-perfect scenario, we tend to shut others out.
We shy away from inviting our friends over because they might see our old, ugly carpet, or how outdated the couch is. And since our kitchen is definitely not state-of-the-art, and our cooking expertise doesn’t match Rachel Ray or Paula Dean, it’s too “risky” to ask people over for dinner. They might criticize our imperfections and it’s easier just to keep everyone a safe distance away.
The thought that perhaps some of the younger girls in our circle of friendship might like to spend some time in our company probably doesn’t even enter our minds. I mean, teenagers don’t like the types of things I like — they probably think I’m an old, worn-out fogey, anyway. Girls these days don’t even have an inkling that they should be learning to cook or clean or take care of babies. I don’t have any extra time in my day to spend entertaining, anyway.
And so we cut the ties before us and after us. Each generation is self-contained, self-absorbed. And, like a plant with shallow roots, each generation withers on the vine. We live among, go to church with, and are even related to people with whom we share very little of our lives. The results are fragmented families, churches without true unity, and young women who grow up isolated and afraid to reach out.
The Biblical mandate for passing the torch of womanhood from generation to generation is so simple and clear:
“The aged women…teach the young women.”
(Titus 2:2, 3)
I would love to see this concept of Biblical mentoring rekindled among the Christian women in our culture. However, I’m not going to sit around “waiting” for it to happen. While I obviously can’t change our culture, I can make a difference in the small sphere of influence God has given me. My family, my friends, my church, my community. I can choose to reach out to those God has brought into my life, both older and younger, and offer the gift of friendship.
I love one definition of a mentor: “Someone farther down the path than you, who is going where you want to go, and who is willing to give you some light to help you get there”.
Accordingly, we can all be a mentor to someone.
So whom can I invite for a little front porch chat this week?
Photography: JenniMarie Photography