It seems like the last time I heard the term “generation gap,” it was in reference to the divide between the World War II generation and their teenage children—the baby boomers. I was in my late teens and news media were awash with discussions of how the forty-somethings couldn’t relate to their offspring who were listening to rock and roll music and growing their hair long. My mom and dad were pretty good about it, but my grandfather could not abide.
The debate wasn’t just about music and hairstyles, though. There were also allegations of moral decay. Some members of the generation that had won the war were baffled by the anti-war movement. There was the whole drug scene, the communist scare and the sexual revolution. I can’t tell you how many weddings I attended where the bride confided, “I’m just doing this to appease my mother.”
I didn’t know what to think when my grandmother blamed it all on the teachings of Dr. Spock. I was unaware that anything had gone wrong. Then one day, I heard someone exclaim, “Kids these days!” And I thought to myself, I’ll bet that members of any generation could say that about the youth who came after “their time,” and the frustrations would be about the same issues: responsibility, impulsivity and respect.
Here we are, 40 years later. The tables are turned and a new set of theories has arisen. Some say that the youth of today are the victims of failed parenting strategies, including the one that gave every child a trophy just for participating. The new mantra goes something like this: “These millennials! They need to learn to be patient and stop waiting for things to be handed to them.”
At a chapter meeting I attended recently, people were discussing how to relate to people in the younger generation. People were brainstorming all kinds of ideas and then a 60-year-old guy at the back of the room raised his hand and said, “I’m not all that young, but this stuff you’re talking about, all of it applies to me. I’m trying to get a business started. I’m trying to
navigate the website. I’m trying to figure out the software. I need basic training, tools and mentoring. I get impatient when things are slow or don’t work. I need an income now, not later.” To which, I said to myself, “Kids these days!”
I’ve heard it said that ASHI is a dinosaur—a “gray-hair” society, and that if we don’t change, we’re destined for extinction. On social media, I regularly find a multitude of experienced inspectors recommending that newbies go look for free stuff. They say, “It’s out there in abundance. Follow this link. Go get it. It’s free.”
I’m aware that ASHI is not the only game in town, that there are other paths and resources, but somehow, for some reason, ASHI continues to thrive. Why is that?
I asked the 60-year-old, a boomer, “Why ASHI?” His answer was poignant: “I’m aware that there are other opportunities, but I can tell that this is where the real professionals are. Yeah, ASHI has some problems, but don’t they all? I’d rather be part of a group of professionals working together to figure it out than to be just one more guy standing in line with my hand out.”
Then I sought out a young guy, a millennial, and asked him the same question: “Why ASHI?” His answer was equally poignant: “I looked around and saw a lot of different opportunities, but when I looked at ASHI, I saw people—people who are working together to improve themselves, each other and the greater community. That’s when I decided to join a chapter and volunteer to serve on a committee.” I shook my head and said to myself, “Hmmm…these millennials.”
I’m not so sure that this is a generational thing. I think it’s a people thing. There will always be people looking for the easy way and there will be people looking for the better way. There will be people who embrace change and those who resist, those who give and those who take.
I’m proud to be a member of ASHI, a group of people who participate in our activities and programs, who share their expertise, and who support and welcome their colleagues.