It is an undeniable fact that the young people are our future. While there are countless youth doing awesome and exciting wonders in the world, the media overshadows their accolades with social media drama, gang and drug violence, and layers and layers of dropout students and other acts of disrespect. Yes, it is true that there are some great young people out there following the rules, being respectful, staying true to themselves and their family, and living life with purpose. To them, I say: KEEP IT UP. DON’T STOP BEING A LEADER. WE NEED YOU NOW MORE THAN EVER TO KEEP PUSHING AND STRIVING TO BE YOUR BEST.
But what about the growing percentage of kids who are doing the opposite? What about those young people who are falling in the wide hole of despair, enlarging the Hades of poverty, violence, lack, and are not living life on purpose? And what does this mean for the future of our youth and our communities?
I grew up in a time when back doors were safe to be unlocked and neighbors looked out and “parented” everybody’s kids. The village of the community was alive and well, helping to take care of everyone and ensure that at the least, they were safe and were being watched, and would even on occasion get fed, encouraged to be and do your best, and make good choices as a sound citizen. Nowadays, many neighborhoods do not represent these ideals. More often than not, we live in a world where we are leery of our neighbors, and would be ready to fight them if they even thought to chastise or even say a word to a child that is not their own. How did it get this way? While I am fortunate to live in an area where my primary neighbors and I trust each other and we look out for each other, many young people today are not as fortunate and they are missing out on the village.
As an educator, I have worked with a wide range of young people from all diverse backgrounds over the past thirteen years. Trying to gain some understanding, I recently asked young people, ages ranging from 16-20, if they valued respect. Plain and simple, the majority of them responded that in order to give respect to their elders, they need to feel like they are receiving respect. Are we respecting Generation Zers? Are we working with them to model modes of respect so that they can see it, breathe it, feel it, and then reciprocate it?
These are questions that do not have a “one size fits all,” but it’s enough to put all of our talk into action, one youth at a time. If we want to see more young people following positive peers, we have to look in the mirror and check if we are “walkin’ the walk, and talkin’ the talk.”