If you are around my age (55+) you probably remember a movie musical from the sixties called ‘Bye, Bye, Birdie’. A satire about the rise of rock n’ roll in the US and the super popularity of its stars like Elvis. There is a song in it, titled, ‘What’s the matter with kids today?’ where Paul Lynde bemoans the trials of parenting “…noisy, crazy sloppy, lazy loafers.” And I guess it is easy to think of our younger generation as less than we were at their age. Time has a way of clouding the bad and brightening the good we may have done. But I have to tell you that if you spend some quality time with young people today you will find that they are not much different and in many ways, even more mature and committed than we may have been. I have three examples of recent experiences that have encouraged me to feel good about our future:
A couple of weeks ago, I went on a retreat for EDGE middle-schoolers as one of the team leaders. (Leader is not my term, but what our church labels the adults and teens that help to facilitate the program.) As usual I volunteered with the presumption that I might have some knowledge or experience that might help one of these kids to get a grip on a confusing subject – for kids and adults – God, religion and their own beliefs. And as usual, I soon discovered that I was the one that needed the learning. My association with this program and these kids has been an instrumental part in developing where I am today in my own spiritual life. Once you actually are able to engage them in a discussion about God, their lives, their families and their friends it becomes pretty obvious that these kids understand much more than I did at that age. And although many of them are from fairly well off families, they get that they are blessed.
This week I attended a Christian concert that had about 10 popular Christian bands and a couple of preachers, it was cool, and again inspiring if you can imagine a huge church service 4-hours long with video screens, a light show, fog machines and huge speakers. It was a great show but maybe a bit odd in how it was managed. No advance ticket purchases, cash only purchase of $10 (yes $10!) at the door and over 15,000 people waiting on two lines. Once the doors opened, the lines did get redirected and somehow everyone paid their $10 to the guys holding buckets at the door. Now, coming from NYC the thought of collecting cash in buckets at such a large concert seems a bit whacky. That’s about $150,000 in cash out on the concourse. But it all went off without incident. Thousands of people waiting patiently on lines that literally wrapped around the coliseum and into the parking lot. Not one fight, not one obnoxious fan (that I could see). No one pushed, or cut the line or ripped off a bucket. The point is that I would estimate that at least two thirds of the fans were between that ages of 8 and 18 and the rest were parents (or old guys like me and my friend reliving our former concert going days). All these kids were excited to be there, no one was high or drunk (that I could see) and they all were just simply into a night of good music and worship – very impressive.
I also met a recent college graduate through a friend, who had decided to spend a year at the University of Colorado campus evangelizing college students and spreading the Gospel. She is supported by the donations received through the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS). My new friend Sam(antha) is on fire with the Holy Spirit and is committed to spending her time demonstrating an alternative life style, one that will lead to an eternity of peace. (You can read her post from August 31 by clicking here.) I pray that someday I am able to make such a strong commitment.
Ebola, ISIS, Global Warming, the Economy – it’s a lot to consider when you evaluate the state of the world. But, if you get out there, away from the evening news and actually engage with people – yes even young people – it can be quite hopeful at the local level. And it’s really at the local level that change begins. Lastly, Jesus has asked, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matt 19:14. Bottom line is that Jesus was simply trying to explain that children (young people) have something that is normally lost with age and ‘wisdom’, which is innocence – and trust. So the next time you’re with a kid, listen up, you may just learn something.