Perspectives: Reflecting on 38 years and this ‘golden opportunity’

Daniel Simmons, Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Carolina
Posted 4/24/20

I’m a class of 2000 “Xennial.” Born in October 1981, I can do analog and digital. I thought I learned all I needed to know from the computer game, “Oregon Trail.”

In the game, you hoped …

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Perspectives: Reflecting on 38 years and this ‘golden opportunity’

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I’m a class of 2000 “Xennial.” Born in October 1981, I can do analog and digital. I thought I learned all I needed to know from the computer game, “Oregon Trail.”

In the game, you hoped to avoid typhoid fever, you dodged the measles, and it was “game over” when you died from dysentery. Why was that so funny, anyway? You were taught to circle the wagons, but you weren’t taught to socially distance. Missed opportunity there.

The COVID-19 pandemic is like nothing I’ve ever seen. Keeping up with the whirlwind of layoffs, political conflict, stimulus bills, and trying to filter messages from the media has been exhausting. Are they masking in Minot? Are they testing in Topeka? Are they distancing in Daytona? How many cases in Las Cruces? It’s a stark reminder of how interconnected we are in a world of cross-border commerce. Amid all of this, I am grateful to have work to do as our team steadies the ship during this maelstrom. We have so much to do and I’m glad we’re here to help our community’s kids both now and in the future.

I’m working from home; shouldn’t I be less tired than normal? My temper really flared over something trivial today. I’m slow to express anger, so what’s up with that? I’m not bouncing from meeting-to-meeting across three counties from sunup to sundown, which means five dollars is officially “gas money” again. Finally, I don’t have my own kids, which means I don’t have an unpaid in-home internship as an instructional technology assistant. I’m married to a teacher. We feel your pain, parents.

I’ve been thinking about the last 38 years of my life and some of its most significant world events. The 1981-82 recession; the 1989 collapse of savings and loan banks; the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War; the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing; the 1999 Columbine school massacre; the 2000-02 dotcom bust; the 2001 terrorist attack and the war that followed; the housing market catastrophe of 2008 and the ensuing Great Recession; and now a global pandemic and whatever economic ramifications come with it. I felt my mood deteriorate just typing this paragraph.

Can someone bring me some endorphins and a glass of Coke, please?

So here’s my question: can I expect my next 38 years to be the same? Can I (we) expect to endure or be witness to a major catastrophe every five years or so for the rest of my life? I’m sure previous generations will tell us they’ve lived the same scenario during their lives. But have they? The internet and social media have connected us in such an inextricable way. Our predecessors didn’t have access to such a mass of information so quickly and so constantly. So, here we are…back to the same old argument about whether the Internet and social media are a blessing or a curse. I’m sure I know what Neil Postman would say.

I’m wearing rose-colored glasses again. I always get weird looks when I do that. I’m choosing to believe that we can take what we learned from this pandemic and course-correct. We’re going to search deeply about how we treat one another and the things we do and don’t value. I’m choosing to believe that we are going to experience an incredible enlightenment as a result of what we’ve experienced; an enlightenment that will force us to rethink the very concept of humanity.

I hope you will take some time to think clearly and deeply right now. This may be your golden opportunity. Go to your place where thoughts come to you. Maybe it is a quiet room with candles lit. Maybe it’s a set of earbuds and your favorite music. Maybe it’s a country drive with the top down. Think and pray.

Wherever it is, go there and go there as often as you can. I think we’re depending on it.

Daniel Simmons is the chief executive officer of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Carolina.

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