Many have lost faith in the forthcoming generation. Consistently, I have heard people complain that this generation of kids is self-centered, lazy, lacking people skills, complacent, unconcerned and more, but this week, my hope for the greatness in our youth was revitalized by a group of 80, mostly local, youth. I spent the last week, from nine to four, working alongside my fiancé, Derek Anderson, at his second annual “Stamina Camp.” As Camp Administrator, I wore various hats that allowed me to get to know the kids on many levels, including, registrar, lunch lady, nurse, hugger, motivator, award coordinator and counselor. Although it was a very busy week, I greatly enjoyed getting to know each of the campers and watching them grow, both as basketball players and as people.
It was decided that this year, beyond basketball skill enhancement, the camp would focus on “good deeds.” Monday, at the conclusion of the first day of camp, Derek talked to the group about the importance of being good people. He talked about good deeds and random acts of kindness as well as how necessary it is to always seek opportunities to help others. Their homework, beyond working on the basketball skills learned in camp, was to perform good deeds for others and write them down to turn in the next day. Tuesday morning, more than half of the campers turned in their lists upon arriving, but several reported that they forgot to do the good deeds, while others stated they left their lists at home.
This time, at the end of camp, those who had turned in good deeds were rewarded with a special prize while those that had not done their homework left empty-handed. The campers recording the most good deeds were given two gift cards: one to spend on themselves and another to give to someone he or she didn’t know. This act reinforced the lesson that when someone helps you, you should willingly try to help someone else.
Wednesday morning, almost every camper turned in a list of good deeds. They recorded acts, including doing chores at home without having to be asked, helping a sibling, collecting money for families in Nepal, letting their mother select White Castle for dinner since they didn’t have one where they’re from, rubbing their mother’s feet, giving their allowance money to the homeless, writing “thank you” notes to their parents for allowing them to attend camp and giving a parent money to put towards the cell phone bill. What shocked me was that the campers weren’t reluctant to complete the assignment, they were proud of what they had done. Each kid smiled in excitement on his/her way in each morning, assignment in hand to watch me place a check by his/her name. From ages 7 to 17, they were getting it. Not only is it important to help others, it’s cool, and it feels good!
Each day, they repeated the assignment, getting more and more into this “good deeds” thing. They held doors for each other; they helped clean the gym at the end of the day; they said “yes, ma’am” and “no, ma’am”; and they were respectful to all adults in attendance. They had fun; they ate well; they improved at basketball. But what I cherished the most was that they took away a valuable life lesson. We do not exist in silos. The world does not revolve around any one person, no matter how well-known or famous. As we strive each day for greatness, we must pull others up with us. It does not require a significant amount of time; it does not always require a significant amount of energy. All it takes is for us to truly open our eyes to the needs of those with whom we share space each day. Maybe it’s a random hug; maybe it’s a quarter in a random parking meter you see about to expire; maybe it’s something small to you, but it could tremendously lighten someone else’s load and put a smile on that person’s face.
We are so quick to write off the next generation, but the onus is truly on us. If we don’t model the behavior that it takes to be a good citizen, if we don’t teach them that we are all interdependent and that helping others in turn helps us, they will never know. We cannot blame them for their behavior if we are not showing them the way. I suggest that we all should do better at paying it forward, that we all become more aware of what’s going on around us and be part of the solution. Teach, don’t blame.
I suggest that the next generation is not lost — they just need to be taught. Invest the time, and #TeachTheBabies