I really refuse to be pessimistic about our future. It’s easy to see the world darkly and act like things are going to get much worse before they get better, and that may even be true, but I don’t believe that the world is in as bad of shape as most people seem to think it is. And I say this because I know a lot of young people, the very people that adults like to characterize as selfish, lazy, self-indulgent, immoral, and many other things; and what I see in these young people is hope, the hope for a better world, for these people, young and immature as they may be, are very good people.
Most young people these days are facing many more challenges than us older folks ever had to deal with. Most of the kids in school are expected to know much more than we ever knew, and they’re held to standards of behavior that we never were held to (no matter how much we like to claim that the opposite is true). These young people are afraid, just as we were, they’re doubtful about their own power and beauty and abilities, just as we were, and they’re dealing with emotional and mental and physical problems, just as we were. When we see them in bad moments–which is usually when most adults notice them–it’s easy to generalize and say just how much worse things are today than they used to be. But that’s simply not true.
I watch young people involved in sports who play with intensity and who work very hard at what they do, and who play with great integrity and high levels of sportsmanship. I see young people work hard to improve their math or science or writing skills, even when the subject may be difficult for them. I see them asking important questions as they try to discover their own ways through life and living, as they try to define their own worlds for themselves. I see young people displaying compassion and creativity and love and caring in ways that we never dared when we were their age, and I’m very impressed with most of what I see.
This all comes from working closely with them. If I didn’t do so, then I’d probably see only the negative stuff that gets on the news, the stuff that makes us feel bad about other human beings, that makes us feel that the adults of the future will be selfish and violent and self-centered. But I’m blessed to be in a situation in which I get to work with young people very closely, and I feel very fortunate that this is the case. Because in them I can see that the better parts of humanity are not skipping over this new generation–the kids may not be completely comfortable expressing what they know to be true to us adults or even to other young people, but they do have within them the most beautiful traits of humanity, and when I see it shine through I know that the future of the human race is a bright future, and that the spirits that have been in this world for less time than others will mature into great people of whom we’ll be proud, and into whose hands we can trust the future of the human race. Do you feel a bit hopeless about the future now and then? Well, don’t–the kids of today have much more potential for love and compassion than we ever did, for our generation is teaching them many of the things that the generations before ours neglected to teach us. And these kids are learning the lessons well, even if we’re not able to see the results in ways that are as direct as we’d like to see them. So have faith, and smile–the future is bright, and while there will be the inevitable potholes along the way, the youth of today will overcome them and build a better world than we could even imagine. I’m sure of it.