HAVE YOU EVER CAUGHT YOURSELF SAYING, “I just don’t understand kids today. When I was a kid, we________”. Just fill in the blank! Was it “walk 10 miles in the snow”, “get a job to pay for the movies”, “wash my own laundry”, or “do chores every day”? It doesn’t matter what you put in the blank . . . . . .
Mentor Mama has bad news for you. If you have caught yourself saying this, even if you are only 18 years old, you are officially an Old Fart. As soon as we begin to reflect fondly on the merits of our own generation and comment with disdain on the generation coming up behind us, we have lost it. Lost what? Our edge, our creative spark, our joie de vivre. Call “IT” what you will, but it’s gone.
I would call it relevance. One of the most critical aspects of staying relevant in this world is staying connected with what is new, fresh, and alive. What could be more fresh and alive than our youth? Yet, rather than honoring our children, we tend to analyze them, assess their shortcomings, recommend how to fix the flaws, and then categorize them into “generation” alphabet-soup (Gen-X, Gen Y, etc.).
Mentor Mama is by no means a saint. I have three children, 15, 17, and 21. Need I say more? I get frustrated, angry, and wacko on a regular basis. I am often demanding and judgmental. In the end, however, if I listen carefully and I observe these beautiful creatures closely, I am humbled by their creativity and insight. They give me hope for the future.
My children have a wide range of friends, from football players and skateboarders to science geeks and break-dancers and everything in between. In my experience, all of these amazing young people possess the qualities necessary to contribute rich, new ideas to our society and our world. What they lack in experience, they make up for in enthusiasm and desire.
Last week, my son’s school hosted a community faire. The students spent about two months individually researching local or global issues of their choice. Their research culminated in this faire, which showcased their findings and gave these budding philanthropists the opportunity to advocate for their causes.
The projects were extremely diverse, including highly publicized topics like homelessness, pollution, and breast cancer as well as lesser known issues such as teen suicide, pit bull abuse, and lupus. The students filmed videos, made sculptures, wrote press releases and created dances, in an effort to move people to action.
The booths at the faire ranged from elaborate to thought provoking and the students were available to discuss their topics and appeal for change. Each child pursued his or her passion with the goal of demonstrating that “ONE person can make a difference.”
What more can we ask from our next generation than to grasp that THEY can make a difference? That THEY are smart and productive and powerful. As their role models, our job is to work ourselves out of a job.
Mentor Mama knows that it is comforting to believe that there was something unique about your generation. If you want to be RELEVANT, however, you will embrace the past, while ushering in our hope for the future: The Next Generation.
It is only in acknowledging our obsolescence that we remain relevant to what is happening right here, right now!