I saw a teenager sprint yesterday. And get this. He wasn’t on a high school track.
I made my fifth trip to one of the area’s greenhouses to pick up yet another pallet of plants. I needed potting soil. The woman who was helping me got on her walkie-talkie and asked the young man working there to go to the other side of the lot to check for some.
He ran. He didn’t lope. He didn’t dawdle. He ran. Full speed. And then, he ran back with my dirt.
Then, this evening I had the pleasure of attending a graduate’s senior recital. And the church was full. Of high school seniors. Who had just had their very last day of school only hours before. They could have been doing anything else on this lovely June day. But they came to sit in pews and listen to the beautiful music of their talented friend. And when it was over, they rushed the stage to hug their classmate and congratulate her. The image of this group of young people posing together for a group photo beneath the stained glass windows was a beautiful thing.
Forget what you’ve heard about today’s selfish, self-absorbed young people.
Oh I know… they are privileged in ways previous generations of teenagers could not have imagined. They own a lot of stuff. They are used to being part of teams where everyone gets a trophy just for breathing and showing up. They have a sense of entitlement and haven’t had to share much of anything in the smallish families where they’ve been raised. I count my own two in this group. But we’re responsible for this. Not them.
But stop and listen to them. They are also interested and interesting. They care more about the environment, health care, and education than we think they do. They are out looking for jobs in an economy where the entry level jobs they are qualified to do are being taken by people much older. They want to make a difference. And they will.
They are leaving high school in challenging times socially, economically, and globally. Many of them will go on to college, and most of them will end up in debt doing it. But listen to them. They dream of being teachers and nurses and scientists. They’ve read Keats and taken Calc and have taken college courses already. They thirst for knowledge. They demand a lot from themselves intellectually. They volunteer.
They hug each other and use the words “I Love You” a lot more than we all did. And contrary to what you may think, they don’t all drink or smoke weed. In fact, very few of them even smoke cigarettes. They spend a lot of time planning for their futures and have gone on a lot of college visits.
Yes, they are consumers. But they consume information and knowledge and music and art in addition to the material possessions they own.
They value time with their families.
They believe in designated driving and watching out for each other.
They buckle up.
They know about STDs and safe sex.
They call when they’re going to be late.
They don’t cut…or binge…or purge…or huff.
They aren’t suicidal.
They go to church.
They aren’t perfect, but they are more hopeful, more joyful, more loving, more discerning, and more mature than we were at the same age and in a million different ways, more ready to leave the starting block than their parents have any right to expect.
So if you are a parent of one of these young people sitting in an auditorium this weekend fighting back tears for what was….take solace. We did okay. They will be fine. Better than fine. They will be awesome.
They have a lot of crap to figure out, but they are up to the challenge.
The sprinters and the songwriters and the rest of them, too.