BOOM! Welcome to the Sandwich Generation

| by Shannon Williams

About a week ago my generally healthy Dad was rushed to the ER. On the very same day, one of our teenaged sons faced a challenging life lesson of his own that he never saw coming. 

BOOM! I was initiated into the Sandwich Generation. 

Thankfully both of these amazing men in my life are recovering nicely. However, for 48 painful hours everything was turned completely upside down and I was the one left to steward the emotional, spiritual and physical needs of my parents and my children, while doing my very best to keep my own emotions neatly tucked away. 

You may be wondering, what about your husband or siblings? By no fault of his own, my wonderful husband was away at a professional development school, and I am an only child. So, there was just me doing my best to walk in faith and help my family. 

Why am I telling you this? Certainly not for sympathy, but instead as a reminder. Nearly every organization that I partner with is frantically searching for the secret to engaging millennial donors and volunteers. Clearly, it is important. However, we cannot lose sight of the real struggles and needs of the Sandwich Generation in our quest to secure the younger ones. 

Members of the Sandwich Generation make up the majority of our Executive Directors, Senior Program Leaders, Board Members, and increasingly our top donors. And, they are juggling a lot. Yes, I have been a member of the Sandwich Generation for a few years, but last week was the first time I truly experienced the very challenging reality of my status. 

Please be sensitive when staff and volunteers are caught in the stresses of tending to the needs of young and old simultaneously. Recognize that it will touch every facet of their lives and drain them physically and emotionally. They will need a day or two to recover—make that possible if you can, or lighten the load in some way. 

I am very blessed to work with colleagues who jumped in to lead a focus group for me, covered my blog assignment, and revised a survey I was in the process of creating. I am so grateful for their support, prayers and love. But, I still had six appointments to reschedule from the two days I cleared my calendar to be with my Dad in the hospital even with all of their help. 

And, I am blessed to have amazing friends who made me dinner, carpooled my younger son to practices, and prayed fervently for me and my family. Let me say again, I am truly blessed, but I still had a mound of laundry and bare cupboards by the time normalcy returned. 

So, please be compassionate to the Sandwich Generation. This is a really hard stage of life. And of course work hard to build strong, supportive relationships with staff members, volunteers, and donors of every age. Sooner or later, we will all have the BOOM moment I had last week. We need one another’s kindness. Be alert and ready to give it. In fact, practice it, so you are never caught off guard.

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