Can Is Not Should.


My niece has been visiting the last two weeks. On Saturday, she was thinking about her next time to visit us. She has a friend who goes to Oregon University and his older brother is moving back to California to take a job. But before he starts the job, he wants to road trip up to see his brother at Oregon.

“So I could hitch a ride with him.”

Totally innocent. She’s 22 years old and in a long term relationship. She has known the brother for a while. He’s 25.

But still, “NO” erupted from my mouth, almost before I could think.


“Because he’s 25 and you’re 22 and you have a boyfriend.”

“He’s my friend. It’s not like that.”

“I know, but it’s disrespectful to your boyfriend.”

“How? If he knows the guy and he knows I’m going and he’s ok with it?”

“Then he doesn’t know he should be offended. I can’t explain it, but this is wrong. It just is.”

It just is. Which sat between us for a few seconds before we both started laughing.

“I know it’s lame to say ‘It just is’”, I told her. “But it really just is.”

Earlier in the week, she had floated the idea of going to the local country bar. When I rolled my eyes because it was a Tuesday night, I hate country music and the kids are going to get up at 6:30 regardless of when I go to bed, she was ready with a solution: “Then you leave early and I’ll get an Uber ride home.”

I love this girl. She is a good girl, a college graduate, volunteers with her church’s teen ministry, works for a Catholic company kind of way. She has a solid foundation and lots of support.

But sweet Mother Mary.

I don’t blame her. She is a product of her generation, whose motto seems to be “If we can, then we totally, absolutely should”.  They plan and communicate more efficiently than any generation before them because of the amazing technology they have at their fingertips.

In all of this super planning, they very rarely seem to stop and wonder if what they’re doing is necessary. Proper. Prudent.

Perhaps the man in her life won’t care if she travels alone with another man, but his mom might. And her mom. And me.

And I didn’t need to Google “Uber Rapes” to know that Uber is dodgy at best and downright dangerous for a woman alone at night. But when I did Google “Uber Rapes”, I found that taxi rapes are even more prevalent.

So this school of thought that says if you can make all the dots connect on an idea, then it’s a good idea?

Not always, my young friends. Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. Not without further reflection. There are greater rules that govern our society for the good of one and all, and those need to be considered.


In the midst of writing this, I came across a Carol Costello op-ed on CNN called Ready for the Marriage Apocalypse? It’s a perfect example of what I’m talking about. Millenials think they don’t need marriage because they can make all the dots connect on not having marriage.

For them–not all of them, but a majority polled–the here and now is more important than the long term or the eternal.

Traveling through Europe trumps having kids.

No paperwork means no mess when it’s time to move on to the next person.

Yeah, they could be like the generations before them. The same Boomers who burned their bras and lived out of their Volkswagons are now twice as likely to identify as conservative.

But what if they aren’t?

We have to start talking to them in a better way. A way rooted in faith and hope and love. We have to show them that family is a solid and crucial foundation. And that no one can make decisions in a vacuum, thinking only of ourselves and asking only if a thing is possible. I am afraid that if they continue on, so focused on the moment, they will miss out on the lifetime.

Call Me Ma’am ~ Jen

Dear Nice Young Lady at Target,

You’re busy being a 20 something so I’m going to get right to it.

I’m 41.

You and I may have babies the same age. We may live in the same housing tract. We may even go to the same church. Even so, you should not be calling me “hon”. Not just because you don’t know me—which honestly, should be reason enough—but also because I am older, and there’s a hierarchy to familiarity. As much as I hate to say it, to you I’m a “ma’am”.

So is the older lady laboriously writing a check while three of us wait behind. As crazy as she makes you, she’s definitely a “ma’am” to you and to me and mostly everyone else in the whole dang store. Not a “hon”, with patronizing patience. She’s 85 if she’s a day and we all should be “ma’am”ing her and asking if we can help her out to her car. She’s earned that respect by living this long.

I would have kept quiet, except you called the WWII vet behind me “hon” as I was leaving. He fought in the Pacific—I know this because we chatted it up while the nice old lady wrote her check, a conversation that I ended by saying “Have a nice day, sir”. But you said “Don’t worry about it, hon”.

He might say that he likes it when a cute young thing calls him “hon”, but that is not the point.

The point is this: we used to revere the elders in our society, or at least reached for that standard. At the same time, we cut them serious slack. They could take as long as they wanted. They could say what they thought. They could even belch at the table. And everyone more than ten years younger was required to stand in their presence until invited to sit and address them respectfully as “ma’am” or “sir”.

You know this is a small town dominated by a master planned retirement community built in the 40s. The median age in this community has to be 80. There is no new retirement blood coming in because 60 is the new 50 and Boomers don’t know how to retire. We have all these folks, with their experience and their wisdom—and yes, their checkbooks and their belief that no one should drive a car over 35 miles per hour—who are learning to live in today’s world.

Can you imagine what that must feel like to someone who was 18 in 1943?

So these older folks, they may seem like they are obsolete, or child like. But they aren’t. So let’s agree not to treat them that way. Let’s find our “sir” and our “ma’am” and spread respect like we are called to spread love.

And let’s leave the rest of the sentiment for the kids.