Today’s Youth are selfish loafers with extremely high levels of self-esteem. Or at least that’s what previous studies have declared. Perhaps you prefer the description of “anxious, depressed and anti-social” as so eloquently stated by UK newspaper The Guardian.
The Guardian is not alone in this negative depiction of this generation. Conventional wisdom holds that our goodness has eroded so much since its passing that today’s youth might be our “worst generation,” asocial, apathetic, even coldly murderous.
A recent study showed that “only 37 percent of the public think today’s children aged 6 to 12 will make the world a better place when they’re grown.”
I’m writing this today to the other 63 percent of the population who do not believe that our teens can make a difference. I’m declaring my unequivocal faith that this generation can change the world. That it will be the youth of today that redefines the words selfless, caring and sense of responsibility. Nay, through my story I will prove that they already have.
My first meeting as Volunteer Coordinator with a new potential volunteer was nerve racking. How could I convince this young girl that what she wants to do in her spare time, her one hour of down time before all her homework began, was to spend it at the Friendship Circle in the company of individuals with special needs? I knew why there was nothing better in the whole world, my problem was convincing the volunteer. But there was no need for me to fret. There was no convincing to be done! She was there because she wanted to be there. She was at our building because she knew the intrinsic beauty of our special children and she was committing to come every week because she wanted to give back to the community. I was shocked and thrilled all at once and realised that my time here at the Friendship Circle would open my eyes to a different generation of teens I was led to believe existed.
Did I mention commitment??? Our volunteers don’t come once, to tick off their feel-good/do-good charts. They come every week with a smile and energy that’s hard to muster at the end of a long day. They pledge at the start of the year to dedicate their time to make a child happy when they could be living up to their title of “selfish” and instead be shopping, studying, watching TV, going for a jog or any of the myriads of things a typical school age student enjoys doing. When it dawned on me the extent of the commitment, I figured that our pool of volunteers was no doubt small. Just how many guys and gals would seriously commit to something so time consuming? I was yet again proven wrong (much to my delight) when I discovered that we have approximately 350 active teen volunteers. We are talking an average of 305 hours a week dedicated to helping someone else!!
The fact that our teens come every week, though in and of itself a huge achievement, is not their crowning glory. It’s their attitude and passion that we must commend. Our teens want to help. They demand to be a part of imprinting the world. They insist on making a difference. When we are in need they step up to the plate and help out. When we are in distress we can always rely on our volunteers to pull through. They smile and make others smile. They give and cause others to be inspired to give. They inspired me every single day when they walked through those double doors of Friendship Circle ready to have fun with their special buddy and spread the warmth of Friendship.
And every day that I watched hundreds of teens change the world bit by bit, I was forced to ask myself that if I had had this opportunity as a teen would I have done the same? Furthermore, would the generations before us have done the same? After 15 months of watching and admiring my volunteers I conclude that today’s youth are not the reckless carless barbarians portrayed in the media (those are the minorities that make headlines). They are the gentle, passionate, caring individuals willing to put others before themselves. They are the fiery, committed, loving and community-conscience generation that has the power in their hands to make a difference and imprint the world.
So to the 63 percent that didn’t believe that the children would make this world a better place when they’re grown, I realize that in a sense you’re right. They are not waiting to be all grown up…they are doing it now.