These are a few words I’ve heard referring to the current generation of young people, and it’s a pretty dismal outlook on the future.
The theme of cry baby youth is all over social media, it’s in 12 million memes and it’s a conversation I’ve heard in real life over and over.
There’s always an overtone that kids these days will not only never survive~ with their need for participation trophies and safe spaces~ but also that their parents and society will have to support their helpless butts forever.
I’m old enough to see that there are plenty of cases where yes...this is true. Yes, there some lazy young people who whine and are fairly incompetent.
BUT, I’m also young enough to remember “old people” (who were probably around 40) blasting my fellow Gen X-ers and I for being slackers, negative and unmotivated, and blah, blah, blah. (I’m sure they droned on with more ways of how we didn’t measure up, but I, and probably most of my peers, tuned it out.)
Decades before that, my hard working Grandparents were most likely also horrified by my parents hippie culture (which later turned into a yuppie culture that created plenty of problems in itself and mortified me) but I don’t know how many of those former hippie / yuppies remember being on the other end of that parental judgment.
The the thing is, it’s easy to blame the youth, but doesn’t everyone know people of ALL AGES who make excuses and have a victim mentality? Even if we grew up before “You Are Special” ribbons became a thing, there are still people who want someone else to fix their problems and don’t take responsibility for their own life choices.
When I stop and look at the young people that are actually around me in real life, and not on the internet~ the kids I see these days are actually pretty awesome.
I spent a recent weekend taking a dozen of them up to a small mountain town that had been devastated when a fast spreading wildfire destroyed 150 homes two years ago.
The burned houses weren’t second vacation homes, but primary residents, many were low income and uninsured people and most of them lost everything~ from irreplaceable baby pictures and pain in the rear important documents to every last pair of underwear and socks. Many also lost their pets.
It was definitely a disaster, but the area didn’t qualify for FEMA funds. Apparently, that turned out to be a good thing because it allowed volunteers to help, and things are actually getting done. Between Habitat for Humanity and other private and religious groups, new homes were being built.
Anyhoo, back to the kids….about half of the 12 kids we took were familiar to us, and we have taken them on trips to work and play for years. The other half were new to the group~ unknowns, and several were pretty young~ like barely in junior high. In hindsight, this could have been a disaster in and of itself, but as it turned out, they were all great.
We spent a long day working on building two different homes. My group of kids marked and loaded sheet after sheet of roofing plywood and painted almost an entire house. Every one of them worked hard, and complaining was little to none. They were tired and slightly sunburned, and at some points, I would assume a bit bored, but there was no complaining or whining. They just helped.
We met the future owner, whose son and husband helped throughout the day, while she brought us homemade food. Her gratitude was huge and she talked to me about immigrating to America, about the hardships of separating from family, being lost in a foreign culture, and of how lucky they were to get their passports and legal papers out in time.
All I could think of was how hard it would be for me to rebuild in an event like that~ and I have family, friends, community, a shared first language and citizenship that would all be on my side. This lady had a serious battle.
The kids didn’t know any of that when they were working. They just did what they saw needed to be done.
In talking to some of the parents later, I realized that most of the young people probably worked much harder that day than they typically do at home, but the same could be said for me. I’m much more cheerful when picking up groceries or making a meal for a sick friend or new mama than I am when doing these chores for myself. I guess people just like to help.
We all need purpose and perhaps that's what the trouble is with all of the generations of youth since laws and culture changed the helpful and important contributions teens made to society and left them them to just be economic liabilities and consumers. When people have good things to do, they generally do them.
The same group of kids helped again a week later when we made up hygiene bags for displaced people and filled backpacks for kids who wouldn’t otherwise have back to school supplies.
But these aren’t the only awesome kids I see. My Oldest Girl Child is off on her adventure with Global Citizen Year~ spending a year immersed in a cultural exchange internship in Ecuador. One of her best friends is working with the same program in Senegal. At just 18, these kids are out ~ not just exploring, although that’s a huge part of it~ they are actually doing things in the world and trying to make it a better place.
Closer to home, I see other kids who might look like they are just goofing off and making videos with their friends, but really they’re learning about technology and communication, and perhaps most important, they’re making people laugh. Some are learning coding and 3D printing dustable things, some are making music or dancing or playing sports, some are making awesome baked goods or painting or making fantastic costumes, and some are playing with little kids and being cool older role models.
Looking around, I don’t feel all that concerned at all.
All of these young people give me hope and make me smile. From what I’m seeing around me the kids these days are going to be just fine.
And the world will be a better place because they’re in it.