How many of you complain about today’s young people? How many of you hear others complain? You know who I am talking about. These young adults and teenagers who are completely self-centered. They do not care about anyone but themselves. We all know them, right?
I had an interesting experience one recent Monday evening. My daughter invited friends from one of her social groups to meet me at World Renewal International to help with our BackPacks of Hope program.
They spent an evening with me packing backpacks and organizing materials for use later. Actually, they did the work. And my daughter did most of the organizing. I supervised and shared some information about people who are homeless in Hancock County.
Most of them came from somewhere in Indianapolis. World Renewal International is located toward Henry County. This was not a short trip for most of them. Most of them had worked all day and had work the next day.
I think you would refer to them as 20-somethings. They are smart and funny. They also struggle more financially than my generation did. Is some of this due to having difficulty delaying gratification? Yes, it is.
It is also because some have large student loan debt. This was virtually unknown in my generation. Some work in professions or businesses that do not pay them, comparatively, what their parents made at the same age for similar work.
And many do not have the opportunity to work in the kinds of good-paying manufacturing jobs their parents did.
This belief that young people are not as caring as the generations preceding them has been around for many years. A father was lamenting the behavior of one of his sons. According to the father, the son had no concern for others and had a habit of spending money foolishly. This father and son lived during the time of the Roman Empire.
And Shakespeare made a point of writing about the conflict between parents and children in several of his plays. And much of that conflict revolved around the parents feeling the children were going to amount to nothing because of their careless ways.
When I hear myself thinking about condemning these kids, I have to remember what the reality is. If you read this newspaper often, you are bound to regularly see stories about a group of young people from a school, church or a community group doing good things for others.
I rode with and volunteered with Edelweiss for many years. The young people who volunteered with Edelweiss worked very hard. They sometimes had a horse step on one of their feet. In the heat of summer, when the dust is thick and walking next to a hot horse only makes it hotter, these young people did not complain and came back for more.
As I talk with others, I hear the same things about our young people. They are engaged. And they care.
So where do we get the idea our young people do not care? Some of it is they are about the business of being young people. They are working, going to school, dating, getting married, etc.
They also do not have the experience an older person does to know what others might need. And walking into a room with middle-aged and older adults who are giving of themselves can be intimidating to young people. So they look less engaged than other groups.
Are there young people who fit the stereotype of being uncaring about others? Yes, of course there are. And the same thing can be said about other age groups. It is just that we do not tend to look at ourselves as closely as we look at people of other generations.
And we do worry about our children and grandchildren and lament the world as we see it. We worry if they will have the ability to manage what we often see as a more dangerous world.
Will our young people find a way to manage? Will they take care of one another? I think so. After all, for generations, we have had these worries. And we are still here.
Jim Matthews is a long-time resident of Greenfield. You may share your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.