1 Timothy 4:12 "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity."
Have you ever sat down and read a children’s picture book and felt just as satisfied as when reading a deeply moving novel? Ever watched a children’s movie with as many tears and bouts of laughter as with an adult drama? Personally, I can say yes to both of those questions, and I can also say that I have learned as much from young people, both as a teacher and parent, as I have from the many respected and appreciated adults in my life.
Last month’s Real Life Protagonist highlighted the inspirations and accomplishments of an adult, Dolores Ledbetter. This month’s profile is from the view of a teen (name kept anonymous). My hope is that by alternating the views each time between teens and adults, we will all see how important it is to listen and be open, to affirm that no matter what our age, background, race, or experience, we all have something of value to offer and we all can learn and grow from each other.
This month’s teen just finished her sophomore year of high school, a year that will surely be remembered significantly for all its challenges and life-changing events. She has enjoyed playing volleyball as a sport and swimming simply for fun. Some of her favorite childhood memories include going to the beach with family, especially when living in Florida, and traveling with her grandmother, mom, and brother to Hawaii. She laughs about the time she had a roller skating birthday party but didn’t know how to skate. Turns out she had fun learning anyway! She enjoys pop music and Christian music. Two of her favorite songs are Oceans and You’re a Good, Good Father.
Like many of the young people I’ve encountered, her attitude and beliefs are inspiring. They give me hope. If her thoughts represent our future, we are in good hands. Here are a few of them:
What advice would you give to your younger self?
“I would give the advice to not judge anyone you don’t know and don’t care what other people think.”
What advice would you give to others?
“Don’t judge something you’re not sure about; ask about it first. Also, always be yourself in every situation and don’t take people, or anything, for granted.”
What makes a good friend?
“Loyalty, kindness, and trustworthiness. Friends that can laugh at your jokes and always make you smile are the friends you should keep.”
Who do you look up to?
“I definitely look up to my mom the most because she is a hardworking and kind person. I love the way she strives to achieve her goals. I also look up to certain teachers who have helped me to open up and be more confident.”
What gets you through a bad day?
“My friends and family – they always have a way of cheering me up.”
What is a particular challenge you have faced and how did you get through it?
“When my parents got divorced, it was really hard to get through it. But the support of my friends and family helped me, and I was thankful to go to therapy to have someone else to talk to.”
What is a problem you wish could be changed today and how are you feeling about all the difficult events in the news?
“One problem I see in our world is a lack of in-person communication. Our world is now more digital than ever. I think we have taken contact with people for granted. We need to take interpersonal interaction more seriously, especially when the quarantine is over. All the protests and riots going on have overwhelmed me a bit on top of everything else that has gone on. I think it shows that we really need to start coming together as a country.”
I don’t know how anyone can read through those answers and not feel even a little bit more hopeful. Young people like this are our future. They are the ones who will keep what is good and change what needs to be different in our world. This teen in particular has it in her heart to not judge, to ask questions, to value hard work, loyalty, and kindness, to laugh, smile, and spend time with others.
What a wonderful world it can be with all those elements in it.
One of the final questions I asked her was what would she choose as a superpower if she could have one. She said she would like to either breathe under water or fly to see more of the world. Of course people can’t breathe under water, and we don’t have wings to fly freely on our own, but we can perhaps breathe a little easier, walk a bit lighter, feel a little more free, knowing there are young people stepping into the future who make us look up and have hope.