In early 1970 my parents moved me from my Southern California Jr High to a small town in Florida where K-12 were all basically on the same campus. This move happened in the middle of the school year, and happened to be the first year this school was integrated. I cannot even, for the purposes of this post, begin to explain the levels of culture shock to my little, hippy Jesus freak spirit.
But the school was also going through it's own shocks, so I really don't know how much of my experience was my own dislocation or the times. This was a very old school with so many established traditions, in a time when traditions were being challenged left and right.
One whole set of traditions concerned honoring Seniors. There was a prime section of the cafeteria reserved for the Seniors. When we had school assemblies, the front center section was left empty. Then everyone would stand to honor the Seniors as they marched in to fill their reserved seats.
My Junior year the continuation of these traditions was put to the entire 7-12 grades. My senior year, seniors went unhonored.
I have this suspicion that if only the Seniors had voted, my class would still have enjoyed all these honors. And being a member of that pivotal class, I could really see it both sides so clearly: to continue the tradition and give honor to those who had worked for years, or to discontinue the tradition in keeping with this new era of equality.
I have often seen this same struggle in the various organizations I have been part of throughout my life, the struggle between maintaining traditions and moving forward to more inclusion. There is never a way to make everyone happy, and there are always going to be some who feel especially wronged or slighted in the process.
You might think that I would have some profound insight by this time. I don't. I still think people who have worked hard deserve to be honored, but that everyone should have access to all the cookies. I still think traditions are lovely and give us a sense of history, and can also bog us down and keep us from needed growth and change. I still think that we need the wisdom of those who came before, but that everyone should have a voice and be heard.
We are able to do things united into organizations that are beyond the reach of individuals. But is it inevitable that organizations will always come to a place where the individual often feels devalued? I don't know. Ask me again on another day and I might think I do, but for right now, this evening, I'm just to tired of the struggle in my own thoughts and feelings to even keep the conversation going.