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One Sunday last fall, I attended the Laura Isaacs Appreciation Barbecue. Laura is a co-worker. At 24, she lives with her cat, Spock, loves Hello Kitty and ballerina flats.
The impromptu barbecue, Cristy and Shemir's idea, was at Cristy's apartment. Shemir was the only one of us who had ever lit a barbecue fire before, so she did the honors.
Cristy made about 10 pounds of potato salad and enough hamburger patties to feed 25 people, even though there were only about eight of us altogether.
Cheri brought a cake she made using a Southern Living recipe and someone else brought Mystery Date, the High School Musical version of the board game.
I brought a tube of chocolate chip cookie dough to eat raw, because that's what you do at an appreciation barbecue for a friend who needs some appreciation.
I don't remember what was going on in Laura's life back then, but I do remember feeling honored to be included in this circle of young women, most of who are my daughters' ages.
We played Mystery Date (Shemir won) and Apples to Apples and laughed a lot and told Laura how much we appreciated her. Cristy had even made a "Hooray Laura!" banner by cutting out individual letters from magazine pages and stringing them together.
After I left, the rest of them played music and danced until way past my 53-year-old body's bedtime.
I had almost stayed home. Although I consider these young women my friends at work, being more than twice their age, I didn't think I'd fit in at their party. But I like Laura and wanted her to know that I appreciate her, too, so I went, but hesitantly.
The young women welcomed me as one of their own, letting me into their lives and letting me know that they want to be a part of mine.
We all come from different parts of the country and all have different histories and unique stories, and their "Generation Y" worldview is vastly different from my "Baby Boomer" way of looking at things. Their ideas on faith and religion and the Bible differ from mine as well to varying degrees, but we, as a mish-mash group of co-workers, are knitting ourselves together as genuine friends.
From them I get a clearer sense of how my own daughters might think. At lunch, when they're bemoaning their mothers' intrusions into their lives, I make mental notes. Don't call so often. Don't assume they don't know how to solve their own problems.
And they listen to me when I speak from a mom's point of view. One day, when Cristy's mom called her for the fourth time, she pounded her desk. "Does she think I'm 12?!" she cried.
"Yes, she does," I told her. "She doesn't mean to, but she can't help it. It's hard for us moms to think of our babies as grown women."
The New Testament book of Titus talks about older women teaching and training younger women in matters of home and family - and life. There's great value in that, and I appreciate the older women from whom I still learn.
But I also appreciate the younger women in my life, not as "students," but as my teachers. Unlike my generation's "Lone Ranger/do-it-yourself" tendencies, their generation understands the importance of community in a way that I don't, and I continually marvel at how naturally it comes to them. Community is second nature to them, and I find myself drawn to that.
I have so much to learn from them, so much I appreciate about them. My life is made richer because it includes people who are not just like me.
Just as iron sharpens iron, friends sharpen one another, says Proverbs 27:17. I, for one, am grateful to have these young women in my life, who sharpen my dull edges, who accept me as an equal, value me as an elder and who take their time to teach me what it means to be a friend.