Wider Circles, Wider Points of View
We all had a good time that night. It’s not that we expected that we wouldn’t, but I don’t think any of us anticipated that the evening would be so rich. It is not uncommon to be invited to a dinner party or cocktail hour at someone’s home and increasingly, game nights. The host lays out food and drink, perhaps turns on some playlist allowing music to flow through the house on the latest sound system creating just the right amount of background noise while guests are charged with mingling on their own. It was all typical until the host called for everyone to gather in the same room.
He thanked everyone for coming. As I looked around at about 30 people including myself, I noticed that while I knew many of the faces there, others were brand new to me. I hadn’t had the opportunity or not the inclination to make conversation with them yet. That was about to change.
After the host expressed his gratitude to us for joining him, he shared that he had curated this guestlist with an activity in mind. The purpose of the evening wasn’t just to share drinks and laughter, nor to have surface level conversations with someone new, agree to stay in touch, and never really do. Or for the single guys in the room to meet a potential suitor. The purpose of this night was to share some advice and build a few bridges.
The host requested everyone in the room to sound off with their name and age. He then invited us to form groups based on our decades of birth. We divided ourselves into four groups. Men in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s. Once in our groups he told us that we had 20 minutes to get to know each other and for the men in the 30s, 40s and 50s groups, we needed to collectively decide what was the best piece of advice we could give a gay man one decade younger. The group of men in their 20s was tasked with getting to know each other and collectively deciding what was the biggest lesson they’d learned about navigating life so far.
The 20 minutes seemed to fly by, and every group asked for a little more time. The room was abuzz, and people were really enjoying getting to know new people, learning more about the folks they already knew, and sharing their experiences in life, labor, and love.
At the 30-minute mark, the host pulled everyone back together as one large group to share out. Each lesson or word of advice that was communicated by the designee of the small groups sparked head nods, high-fives, more questions, and more conversations. When the formal sharing out was done, people ping-ponged all over the room to talk more with someone from another group.
A space was created for intergenerational dialogue, and it was welcomed. Everyone loved it and when we left, not only had most folks talked with someone they probably wouldn’t have ventured to speak with before, but they’d also given or received a sage piece of advice from someone who had had a similar lived experience that they could take with them to ponder or act on someday.
There is a beauty and deep value in developing and nurturing healthy intergenerational relationships in the LGBTQIA+ community. We travel a unique path and there is a great benefit in being able to talk to someone who has been where you are and can help you figure out how you got there and how to get to where you want to go next.
In the same token, intergenerational relationships do not just help the younger person(s). As we get older, the new ideas and fresh eyes on our fast-changing world offered by the generation before us assists in our own continuous development. Friendships that span generations allow us to see what is in front and behind us. They provide a larger field of view. ▼
Clarence J. Fluker is a public affairs and social impact strategist. Since 2008, he’s also been a contributing writer for Swerv, a lifestyle periodical celebrating African American LGBTQ+ culture and community. Follow him on Twitter: @CJFluker or Instagram: Mr_CJFluker.