One thing young people generally have little difficulty doing is expressing their needs. This doesn't mean, however, that others—especially those with more history and experience—will understand what is being expressed. The question then becomes: How do we learn to listen? How do we learn to hear what others are saying ... when they may not even be entirely clear on what they're saying themselves?
Most of us, when we pass through our 40s or so, have some experience with becoming farsighted. There comes a day when the newsprint seems to have gotten smaller; we wonder why they've started printing the baseball box scores so tiny. We try to hold the paper far away enough from our eyes that we can read it; we discover, though, that—in what seems the mostly "likely" explanation—our arms have become too short. If only we could lengthen them, we'd be able to read perfectly; if only we could hold things steady a bit farther away, we'd be able to see fine.
Simple as it is, this may be an appropriate metaphor for how to engage the interests and concerns of those younger than we are. Instead of trying to focus in on the close-up view, it may be more effective to stand back some, to lengthen our focal point as a way to see things more clearly.
Consider again Warren Schmidt. When he tried to move in too closely on his daughter's life, when he attempted to micromanage the details of her wedding and marriage, she roundly rejected him. But when he stepped back, when he turned the spotlight around and allowed another to see him (as he did with his pen-pal Ndugo), he had great success.
Of course, it's tough to feel as if we're making a difference when people, especially young people whom we are trying to connect with, aren't responding to us as we'd most like them to. And it's certainly the case that every generation needs to make its own mistakes.
However, if we rediscover our passions and live in a manner consistent with them, we can't help but engage others, young and old, in the work that gives our life meaning.