The audacity of Gen Y

Kids these days. Who do they think they are? Pushing for equal rights, for equal pay, for the change they want to make in the world.

I’m grateful to be part of such a dynamic generation, but that isn’t the focus of my post today. The focus of my post is on those kids who are at the tail-end of Generation Y, the high schoolers and middle schoolers who impress me day in and day out.

I mentor a 13 year old girl at the local middle school once a week. The first time we met, we had a “get to know you” questionnaire to fill out together. After questions like, “What’s your favorite food?” What is your favorite thing to do on a Saturday?” we got to, “What is the most important thing you learned in the last year?”

“Um, it would probably be something that has to do with my job,” I said. “So… yeah. My job.” Wow, I can be so eloquent when the mood strikes me.

Without missing a beat, this little 13 year old beside me said, “I learned that it’s more important to have friends who really care about you than it is to be popular.”

Oh dear. I was way out of my depth here. This kid obviously knew a lot more about life than I did. Barely in her teens, she had grasped a concept I still struggled with. And her belief in that statement did not stop with her words. I saw her interact with classmates and friends, and it was clear she frankly did not give a damn about social status. Naturally, that made everyone like her that much more.

More recently, I became involved with a “gender equality club” at the high school. When I started my job last spring at a local non-profit, I was told this group of high schoolers loved volunteering for the organization. Subconsciously, I thought two things: 1. That’s great that they say they want to volunteer, but I bet I can’t count on them. They’re just high schoolers. 2. A high school club that promotes gender equality? It must be a bunch of girls.

They offered to volunteer at our fall fundraising event. Thirty of them had signed up, but I only assigned volunteer posts to fifteen, feeling certain that no more than half the teenagers would show up to volunteer at 6:30am on a Saturday. At 6:35, I had over thirty eager faces, both boys and girls, awaiting my instructions.

While I’m proud to be part of my generation, that’s not why I’m writing today. I’m writing because these kids floor me with their generosity and dedication. At this rate, the world’s problems will be solved within twenty years. I’d say that’s something to be grateful for.