Bridging Generations: Going to Vocab Class with Bridges Together

There is much talk about online learning these days. One of Bridges Together’s core values is lifelong learning. In that spirit, we offer you an intergenerational vocabulary class. In our corresponding Bridging Generations Guide, we list activities and questions to help bridge the generations during this crisis. There will be NO quiz at the end(!) but we ask that you share on social media or via email, how you are applying these terms in order to be together while physically apart.

1. Duality

Definition: Being able to simultaneously hold two oppositional feelings or thoughts.

Examples: I first learned about this concept in terms of research that was conducted on the impact of our BRIDGES programs, primarily run in schools with older adult volunteers. After six weeks, volunteers sometimes felt better about their own aging yet more fearful of the process of aging. Duality.  Opposing thoughts.

I introduced the term “duality” to my friend last month at his mother’s burial, the week before his wedding. What contrasting feelings he and his fiancée/ wife were experiencing. Duality.

Today, as we live through this pandemic, many of us are experiencing duality. On the negative side: fear, loss, hopelessness, loneliness. On the positive side: gratitude, relief, connectedness, hope, joy in the little things.

Like the proverbial glass half-empty or half-full, we need to admit that we have a glass with liquid in it – and then choose how we will focus on it and frame it. We have a variety of thoughts and feelings. It’s important to admit them but then, we have the power to choose where our focus will be and what we will share with others.

Applying duality: In early March, I was relieved that my sons’ dorms were closing but I was a bit sad that our quiet and leisurely empty-nest was going to be filled again – which, in turn, has brought me great joy! Today, I am worried that my loved ones who are medical personnel will contract the virus and not survive yet I am peaceful in my home where we are healthy and our needs are met.

Activity: Create artwork to express duality – even little ones can understand this. You’ll need two 8.5 x 11 pieces of paper and some colored pencils, crayons or markers. On one sheet/ side, draw a picture of a bad feeling you had this week or a tough situation and use greys/browns/black crayons. On the other sheet, draw something that has made you happy this week but use bright colors. Compare the two images and compare what the other person depicted. When looking at artwork, it is important to convey what you notice or feel – not the talent (or lack thereof). This activity is part of our BRIDGES: Our Stories program and was inspired by artist Sharon Santillo. It builds on the book Alexander and the Terrible Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day written by Judith Viorst and illustrated by Ray Cruz which you can watch read aloud online. Compare that with What a Wonderful World Illustrated by Ashley Bryant.

Question to Start Meaningful Conversations and Writing:  Duality is having two thoughts or feelings at the same time that seem to be opposites. How have you experienced duality lately?


2. Resilience

Definition: Ability to survive during difficult times and then to adapt, adjust and bounce back

Examples:  A child with a broken leg who learns to get around by hopping OR a widow who develops a full life again after the death of her spouse who had been ill for a long time.

Resilience happens when we fail or when our plans don’t go as expected or when the proverbial monkey-wrench gets thrown in – and yet, we get up, and continue on. It is critical for young people to learn about resilience and to develop that grit. In recent years, some schools have incorporated lessons in resilience.

Through this pandemic and sheltering in place, we have the opportunity to learn resilience, to become resilient. In order to help us succeed, it’s important to remember previous times in our lives when we have suffered and what helped us successfully come through rough times. Then, we can use those same mechanisms through these challenging times.

Applying Resilience: For example, after the birth of my second child, I was completely overwhelmed with caring for this baby and his toddler brother. Then, I was inspired to jot down the best part of my day before going to bed. All of a sudden, I started looking at all of the positive things in my day wondering if that was going to be the best part that I would record at night. Instead of seeing my glass as half empty, my days as so difficult, I began to see my glass as half full, to focus on my days that were filled with several great moments. Today, I continue to recognize the positive parts of my day and express gratitude to the people and The Divine One who make them possible.

Activity:  Do a virtual field-trip to “Grandma’s or Grandpa’s Attic”. Arrange a time to meet using technology. Then, pull out a box of keepsakes and open it up with your grandchild – maybe 15 minutes or 30 minutes at a time. Share stories – especially about challenges around the time of the object and how you developed resilience through it. For example, if it’s a medal from serving in the war, weave into your conversation ways in which you became resilient. If possible, find ways to share the item or those that are similar. For example, if you open up a box of old dolls, are you able to get one of them to your grandchild OR look online for a similar one OR choose fabric to make a doll blanket?

Question to Start Meaningful Conversations and Writing:  Resilience is being able to overcome tough situations. What was a difficult time you had in your past? What helped you get through it then? Can you use that technique now? Was there a person or group of people who helped you? Who is helping you – or  might be able to help you now?

3. Interdependence

Definition: A compound word with Latin origins. Inter – between.  Dependence: Reliance on, success that is contingent upon another; mutually beneficial.

Examples:  The concept of “intergenerational” has – at its very core – two groups – which are NOT oppositional but truly interdependent. – our oldest and youngest members. We need one another – now, more than ever. We have the opportunity – and responsibility – to reach out and help one another during this pandemic. As they saying goes: we’ll get through this, together.

Applying Interdependence: This issue of our Bridging Generations Guide has dozens of ways that people in different generations can connect with one another in meaningful ways, recognizing our interdependence.

Activity: Plan a garden – a flower OR vegetable garden OR perhaps a “family memory garden” where you plant your loved ones’ favorites OR a “peace garden” in memory of loved ones who have left this world. With interdependence, share your wisdom and knowledge, do research, purchase the supplies, do the planting as well as caring for and harvesting.

Question to Start Meaningful Conversations and Writing:  Interdependence is helping each other in different ways at different times. How have you helped someone else in the past month? How has someone helped you?

4. One day at a time[1].

Definition: Keep the focus on today and do what you can do for today, as well as abstain from negative behaviors, just for today. Don’t worry about tomorrow or the many tomorrows to come.

Examples: This phrase may be best associated with Bill W. and the 12-Step programs. However, it was used by President Abraham Lincoln: “The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.” As we face this pandemic, thankfully, we – the general public – only have to focus on today while we pray for and send good karma to our leaders who are looking ahead for us. On a much lighter note, the Peanuts cartoon creator Charles M. Schulz said: “Life is like an ice cream cone. You have to lick it one day at a time.” YUM and a reminder for those of us in the northeast that summer is coming!

Perhaps one day at a time and this entire writing is summarized in Pope John XXIII’s writing which has become known as the Daily Decalogue – Only For Today…

  1. Only for today, I will seek to live the livelong day positively without wishing to solve the problems of my life [or world] all at once.
  2. Only for today, I will take the greatest care of my appearance: I will dress modestly [actually get dressed]; I will not raise my voice; I will be courteous in my behavior; I will not criticize anyone; I will not claim to improve or to discipline anyone except myself.
  3. Only for today, I will be happy in the certainty that I was created to be happy, not only in the other world but also in this one.
  4. Only for today, I will adapt to circumstances, without requiring all circumstances to be adapted to my own wishes.
  5. Only for today, I will devote 10 minutes of my time to some good reading, remembering that just as food is necessary to the life of the body, so good reading is necessary to the life of the soul.
  6. Only for today, I will do one good deed and not tell anyone about it.
  7. Only for today, I will do at least one thing I do not like doing; and if my feelings are hurt, I will make sure that no one notices.
  8. Only for today, I will make a plan for myself: I may not follow it to the letter, but I will make it. And I will be on guard against two evils: hastiness and indecision.
  9. Only for today, I will firmly believe, despite appearances, that the good Providence of God cares for me as no one else who exists in this world.
  10. Only for today, I will have no fears. In particular, I will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful and to believe in goodness. Indeed, for 12 hours I can certainly do what might cause me consternation were I to believe I had to do it all my life.

Activity: Share Pope John XXIII’s Daily Decalogue. Compare and contrast which are easier for you and the other person. Are there any lines you would like to add or delete? Consider choosing one to focus on for the next week. Print and hang the Daily Decalogue in your own homes. If you decided to focus on one area, check in with each other regularly to discuss your progress.

Question to Start Meaningful Conversations and Writing:  Interdependence is helping each other in different ways at different times. How have you helped someone else in the past month? How has someone helped you?


In Closing

We need one another and as Generations United says, we are stronger together. if you would like suggestions on how to apply these IG vocabulary words to strengthen relationships – especially between generations – and while maintaining social distance, just click here and we will send them to you in our latest Bridging Generations Guide – for free!

If you want to stay abreast of Bridges Together’s tools and trainings, click here to sign up for our newsletter. If you would like to see the other resources, we have made available during this pandemic, click here.

Wishing you “pace e bene” – an Italian saying meaning “peace, wellness and all good things”.




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