Teenagers: I Have Faith in You
Just when you think there’s no redemption for our modern youth, they do something to surprise you and reaffirm your faith in them, the next generation. I’ve had a series of shake-my-head moments recently with teenagers. I think to myself, ‘I was a teenager once. Was I like that?’ There’s the truth, of course, and then there’s what I like to tell myself. The truth is that I had my own problems as a teenager; and, lest I want that dragged into the open I shall refrain from throwing stones. Another truth is that kids these days, while similar in part, are also different, and not in entirely good ways. They are generally more disrespectful for one. But, that’s not always the case as I found out today. Today, I was pleasantly surprised by a group of working teens. They made me stop and think, and they also made me glad that I have been wrong, to some degree, to generalize teenagers in a negative light. Maybe teenagers are more disrespectful and more annoying than I was as a kid. But, far from being all doom and gloom, some teenagers are carrying the entire hope of a generation on their backs. We should stop and recognize those teens who are a step above. Maybe they don’t want a pat on the back from us. After all, who are we to approve or disapprove. Still, we can be happy with the knowledge that the next generation is probably much better off than we give it credit for.
Out & About Program for Special Needs People
Un-PC Warning for the Sake of Clarity: They don’t say it on their website, and they dance all around the subject for presumably PC reasons, but all the people I saw were mentally retarded. Some had a variety of physical problems, too, but the physical issues were not primarily why they were there. I wish it wasn’t such a dirty word, because I honestly think mentally retarded is the only phrase designed to make it perfectly clear what’s being talked about. These kids were not just a little off or mildly learning disabled. They were more than that. I hate to be politically backwards, but I hate even more to be misunderstood. I’ll leave it at that and not use the phrase again hopping nobody is offended by my attempt to be clear. Back to the point.
We went swimming at the North Boulder Rec Center today, and were joined in the pool by the Out & About Program. I didn’t do any counting, but I noticed there were only barely more participants in the pool than there were instructors and helpers. Sometimes you can’t help but to be curious, and I was curious about how this program works. 30 minutes of observing the instructors was enough to get me to ask. And the teenager I asked was super polite when I said “Excuse me. May I ask you a question or two?” I was compelled to ask out of sheer amazement at his (and his coworker’s) level of maturity and professionalism which I thought was unusual in kids their age. He didn’t look any older than 18, and most were like him, young, perhaps just out of high school or volunteering high schoolers.
You’d Think a Teen Would be Untrained
This kid was totally trained. If I didn’t know better I would have thought he had a degree in behavioral therapy. It turns out that he’s been working with the program full time (recently graduated High School). He does it because he just loves helping people. My impression of him was that he has a mission in his life. I should have asked, but I assume he’s using this experience to pursue a relevant degree that would keep him working with similarly disabled people. He seems to have dedicated himself to being a positive force for people who sometimes get shunned by society. I randomly approached this teen because he was within speaking distance. I could have chosen anybody. That leads me to believe all the employees have his level of passion for what they do. All I can say is that I wish I had had that kind of empathy and drive when I was a kid. His kids seemed happy, he seemed happy. Everybody had a good time.
A small incident happened in the pool where an Out & About kid scratched another. The counselors had an immediate in-pool conference to determine if it had been aggressive or simply incidental. Either way the counselors are required to fill out the proper paperwork and record it. They determined it was incidental, and someone went to go get the right form to fill out. The handicapped kids never skipped a beat.
I couldn’t help but think of my friend who owns his own business and can’t seem, for the life of him, able to keep his employees focused and working. If he had three guys (or girls) of the caliber I saw today, he would already be a rich man. So, to all you people like me who might have given up hope in the next generation, let it be known that I have changed my mind. There are kids out there who are going to keep our sorry butts from starving when we’re crippled and in the nursing home. We should do our part and reward them whenever we meet them. Hire them, give them contacts or just thank them. Keep your eyes peeled because they’re out there!