We all need each other

Published 9:33 pm Thursday, January 23, 2014

By Jett Johnson

I’m special. I am a narcissistic, easily distracted, self-indulgent 20-something who feels naked without my smart phone.

That’s right, I’m a Millennial: that hopeless generation of 20-somethings who know exactly how unique and gifted they are. Granted, my elders may be pragmatic, selfless, hardworking and embody civic duty … but I’m special.

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The Suffolk Partnership for a Healthy Community’s Healthy People Healthy Suffolk initiative recently hosted speaker John W. Martin, CEO and president of the Southeastern Institute of Research, which researches demographic trends and how they affect the marketplace.

Martin has learned a thing or two about how we interact, each generation slightly (and sometimes greatly) different than its predecessors.

The topic at hand was inter-generational communication. Martin described some of the intrinsic qualities each generation possesses, and he inspired listeners to connect the dots between our respective groups, in turn making us think about how our differences bind us.

He reminded the audience of the moments and experiences that influenced us all. From World War II to 9/11, from radio broadcasts to wi-fi, we have all seen incredible events in history and stunning technological advancements unfold before our eyes.

I stood in the back of the auditorium for the majority of the event and took a few moments to reflect and observe how the audience was responding. The crowd was energetic, audibly reacting to generational descriptions and humorous generalizations, yet there were one or two moments of silence that struck the room.

Martin critiqued the youth for being coddled, for expecting too much, and for dwindling away countless hours on social media. The audience laughed as he told stories of youth sharing their realities online instead of experiencing it firsthand.

Then, he gave us a break as he said, “The wisdom of many is better than the thoughts of a few.”

While we self-indulgent Millennials spend too much time on social media, he explained, it’s because we live in a hyper-connected community that seeks involvement and input from the whole, not the few, to exist.

This might not sound like it ties into the Healthy People Healthy Suffolk initiative, but it does. Martin was delighted to see the diversity of people in our little auditorium in Suffolk. He remarked that not many lecture halls look like ours. We weren’t broken up into social groups, ethnic backgrounds or neighborhoods; we were just a group of Suffolkians sitting down to hear how we could make our city a better place.

Just like my own ne’er-do-well generation, it seems the people of Suffolk operate on input from the whole instead of the few.

This is what Healthy People Healthy Suffolk is. We and our supporters, volunteers and community activists are just a group of people trying to make Suffolk a better, healthier place. We can only hope to do this, however, through inter-generational, diverse, all-encompassing involvement, like that described by Mr. Martin.

I am a millennial. I know I do not have all of the answers. So I need you, and we need each other to make real change in our city. That’s what makes our city special, like us.

If you’re interested in joining the Healthy People Healthy Suffolk initiative or even just have an idea that you want heard, please contact me at 539-1525 or jjohnson@suffolkpartnership.org.

Jett Johnson is the program manager for the Healthy People Healthy Suffolk initiative with the Suffolk Partnership for a Healthy Community.