Not too long ago I (Dennis) had the opportunity to spend a day with high school students at a well-regarded prep school. Although it was a “day off” on the school calendar, some 150 students took time out of their busy weekend to attend this special program. It was sort of like a conference, sort of like a focus group. We spent the majority of the day tackling difficult life issues, and asking ourselves questions like: What are the biggest issues facing us today? What role does our family play in our life and success? What can we do to accomplish our dreams? What hurdles must we overcome?
I had the privilege of leading a group, and the stories among my small group of students ran the gamut. The most common themes were a lack of parental love and affirmation, feeling excessive pressure to perform, having next to no down time, being tempted by choices they know are harmful, and feeling immense pressure to be popular and belong. It was gut wrenching to witness the stress these kids were experiencing. My eyes were opened to the intense struggles they are facing on a daily basis. Although I may be looking back at those years in my life with rose-colored glasses, I honestly don’t recall it being like this.
Parents, this is a wake up call.
What struck me about this experience was twofold. First, I was surprised at the vulnerability and transparency of the students who shared so openly with their peers and mentors. They had a lot on their minds and were in a safe place where they were listened to. And, in return, they soaked up the wisdom of their mentors like sponges. Two, I admired the humility and commitment of the adults, who candidly shared their own life stories—warts and all—with the younger crowd. This was but one small mentoring opportunity in a field of millions, and I felt honored to be able to serve. At the end of the day, it was apparent the event made a big impact on the students, and on us. Lots of heart. Lots of tears.
After the day was over, I couldn’t help but think, “That went so well! Why don’t we adults (as parents, friends, or mentors) do this more often?” How many of us are taking the time away from our busy careers (or relaxing weekends) to deeply invest in our younger generation?” Had I even been paying attention to the teens and other young people who would benefit from what I have to offer? If no one dives into the lives of these kids and talks them through the hard stuff and listens, who will?
The long and short of it is this: All around us are people and causes that would benefit from our time, our energy, our experience, and our investment. In a world where families are increasingly fragmented and mobile, there are young people everywhere whose lives would be blessed by your investment of time and relationship. How might you give of yourself and positively influence a generation that needs you more than ever? Trust me, when you do, it will change your life, too.
Can you think of instances where you had a significant impact on something or someone? What are some ways you can share what you have to offer with the younger generation?
Be sure to look out for local organizations and clubs that could benefit from having you as a mentor (i.e. the Boys and Girls Club, after-school programs, Big Brother/Big Sister, career-related mentorships, etc.). Share your thoughts and experiences by commenting below; we’d love to know how YOU’RE changing the world!
Image: Freedigitalphotos.net, Stuart Miles