When I was growing up, I got into all sorts of trouble. I got caught up in gangs, drugs, and a whole lot of other messed up things. My lifestyle was crazy, and I saw far too much of the horrible things in the world that happen to people who live that particular lifestyle. I've seen enough horrors to last several lifetimes. Fortunately, I've been able to take these experiences and turn them into something useful by sharing them with youth and young adults.
When I was young, I would often wonder if life would get better. I would also wonder if there would be a time when people would never have to deal with the same stuff that I did. This is probably why I've devoted so much of my life to working with youth. I'm still hoping that they will never have to. Unfortunately, not only have I met youth who have been through the same things as me, but in a lot of ways, growing up in this day and age is so much worse.
Now, why am I writing this? Recently, I've run into people, mainly older adults, who have no understanding of the troubles our young people are facing every day. What I find most disturbing is I even had someone tell me that "These kids are just exaggerating and making a big deal out of nothing. All these things are made up. These things never happen." I wish this were true. I wish these things never happen, but the unfortunate truth is they do.
One need only open up a newspaper or turn on the news to see the awful things our young people are doing, not just to themselves but to each other. Every day, children are being abused. I've met more than a few. We are seeing stories of young people taking their own lives because they are being bullied and tormented relentlessly, and they end up seeing suicide as their only way out. Teens are dying as a result of drinking and driving, or overdosing on drugs. Without being too graphic, let me just say that there are even worse things than this happening to our young people.
The sad thing is all of this is happening, and still there are those who say these things don't happen. These kids and teens are being ignored at a time when help is needed the most. Who is encouraging these youth to live right? Who is teaching them how to live beyond the measure of this world? At an even more basic level, who is teaching these young people the difference between right and wrong? If not their parents, then who is responsible?
There's an old quote I used to see everyday in my old boss's office that read: "In 100 years, it won't matter what kind of car you drove, what kind of house you lived in, how much you had in your bank account, nor what your clothes looked like. But, the world may be a better place because you were important in the life of a child." I believed it was true then - nearly 10 years go, and I still believe it's true today. It's time for us to reach out to this generation of youth. Open your eyes, and see that these kids and teens are hurting. We can't keep looking around hoping someone else will step up and fill this role. Now is the time, and you are the one. You can make a huge difference in this world. Believe it, know in your heart that it is true, and live your life with purpose. Let's all strive to make a difference.