I spend a lot of time working with young people. In understanding the young person, I have a lot of interaction with the adults that are in their lives. I hear complaints like: she or he is just lazy; she or he has no motivation; she or he just doesn’t care; she or he has no respect. When I speak to the young person the complaints sound more like: she or he never listens to me; you have to earn respect to get respect; school is drag, when am I going to use any of this stuff in life; why should I care? The thing that bothers me most however, is the young person today doesn’t know how to dream.
When I ask what they like to do, most of the time they state, I just like to chill with my friends. What does chilling mean? It can mean just hanging with friends. It can mean sitting around playing video games. It can be hanging at the park or walking the neighborhood. It never looks very productive but it’s the time when they are most happy. No demands from the adults who call them lazy, no expectations from the adults thinking they are not motivated, no judgments from adults, and being part of a group of friends. The adult world doesn’t like the way chilling looks. There is always a large group. They can be loud, cursing, and carrying on in a way the adults don’t think is appropriate. But the fact is, that most of the time, they mean no harm; they really are just “chilling”, letting off steam and experiencing that feeling of belonging in a world that is very confusing to them.
What worries me more about young people today, is when you ask them what they hope to have happen in their lives, what they hope for the future, they have no idea. They don’t have any dreams. They don’t know how to dream. What have we done as a society that has taken away the child’s ability to dream, to look to the future and to fantasize about what a great life they will have? How did we take away the young person’s right to look to a bright future and how do we get that back?
It’s very difficult for a person to be motivated when you don’t see the effort will lead somewhere. If you don’t have a dream, you may not have a direction or a goal. You do a lot of floundering without direction and goals. If you believe that no one believes in you, it becomes difficult to believe in yourself.
When you’ve grown up watching people jumping out of buildings because the building had been bombed in the name of religion, you wonder what life is about and what to have faith in: you wonder who will have a future. When your siblings and their friends go through college only to graduate and find there are no jobs, you wonder why bother. When your parents work long hours to provide for you and your home is destroyed in a hurricane, you wonder, what the heck is going on? When politicians run campaigns that degrade their opponents, you wonder if you should even bother to register to vote. It goes on and on. Watch the news. Read the news papers. Listen to the messages they are getting about life.
We wonder why young people are not motivated or seem not to care. Look at what has gone on throughout their formative years. How have we taught them to dream? What are the values we have raised them with? What messages are they getting from the media, their families, schools and their institutions of faith? How have we as a society grown to become dream stealers and nay sayers? How can we turn it around? How do we help young people believe in themselves and believe in their future?
Let’s not judge young people and put them down. Let’s build them up. Let’s give them values. Let’s teach them that hard work does pay off. Let’s teach them to rely on themselves and to develop their interests and talents. Praise them. Teach them to develop their strengths and talents. Encourage them to have faith in themselves and their ability to develop into successful adults and encourage them to be the creators of their own destiny. Help them create a plan, set some goals, and demand of life success and well being. Believe in them; they are our future.