The Shirt Off One’s Back – Saving the World


IMG_2615  Scott Todnem
“We don’t have to save the world. The world is big enough to look after itself. What we have to be concerned about is whether or not the world we live in will be capable of sustaining us in it.” – Douglas Adams

So, the world is crashing down.

Or at least that’s what some of the public is led to believe. Either convinced by themselves or, from outside sources, persuaded to think that because the world is constantly changing, constantly in a state of flux, constantly evolving in the means of human living, our younger generations are causing the future of mankind to go down in flames. A pitiful pyre of enabled, self-absorbed, feeble little video game brains.

I am but one man. And in this one man’s humble opinion, the world is just fine.

Oh, there are snags alright. And we need to attack those instances of inhumanity to bring forth justice and awareness like never before.

Very few times in human history has there been perfect world peace, however. The 2000’s are no exception, all of us simmering along in the embers of past war or, sadly, within the various grease fires of strife currently searing across the globe. But to blame an age group that can’t even actively vote in democratic nations of the world is like readying a bucket of water for one shaggy headed candle while the fast flames of graying mistakes are fanned in the nearby forest fire.

In other words, why blame the kids for a world that the parents have created?

Working weekday after weekday for nearly two decades with our newer generations, I can firmly say that with every story of selfishness, with every story of a spoiled, faux victim of society, I know dozens more stories of youthful hope, determination, and altruism.

The catch is that just like anyone, just like any generation, the youth of today need guidance. Yes, of course our young people grow up to be tomorrow’s adults. This is why guidance is needed… not undue blame or apathetic dissatisfaction.

Certainly not cliches like, “Kids these days…” or “When I was your age…”

Make no mistake, guidance is not making excuses for anyone. Guidance is certainly tough love. Guidance is a stern reprimand when needed. But guidance is also a lending hand. Guidance is giving respect in order to gain it.

You want to see a teenager act like a selfish stereotype? Treat them like one. Want to witness the bright contributors to tomorrow’s society? Treat them like the young adults that they are.

Did I have the world figured out at age 14? Not a chance. Do I have it figured out now? If I may borrow a phrase… LOL.

I remember my own motivation through teenage years. And, aging readers, so do you. When I think about my own direction in life, I realize teens nowadays are placed under just as much stress and just as many expectations to toughen up, to live right, to solve the problems of the world that the older generations are dropping at their feet.

In a quarterly class assignment I offer to my middle school students, we take a look at stories of adversity and advocacy– how people who have dealt with adverse conditions in their lives have taken their story to promote a cause or create positive awareness and support on a topic.

The quotes I am able to read after students journal some personal reflections are always great insight to the diverse mentalities that are developing in the youth of today. Some give inspirational thoughts, others offer their own fiery take on the ageist adversity teenagers often face.

Here are a few anonymous teenage opinions that I am happy to share with you, dear readers, and with the world…

“Be thankful, no matter what obstacles you have in life. You can do anything.”

“Face adversity and embrace it. Turn difficulties into advocacy.”

“Sometimes adults just say things like ‘Kids can be cruel.’ But how is that going to help us? Ignoring issues we may need help with is like putting a big comforter over an unmade bed; the problem isn’t gone, it’s still very much there.”

“We are all lucky. Through all the hard times, there is room for happiness.”

“Respect what you have. We are fortunate to be healthy and able to do things that some others may not.”

“Everyone has a voice. It’s important for all of us to see and hear others and their stories; you can learn something from every person you meet.”

“Adults often judge younger kids based off generalizations, as if we’re all weak-minded or we’re supposed to have everything figured out. Help us by listening first and then providing more than just more insults. We get enough of those.”

“Doing things for others is more important than doing things for yourself.”

In reality, at our core, we are all helpful. We are all selfless. We are altruistic givers who want to see each other succeed. Because, if others thrive in this life, if others can brave the test of daily living, we successfully live right alongside them.

And that, that desire to improve our collective well-being, is a fire in the belly of our youth that I am more than willing to help feed.


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