I love teenagers. I think they get a bum rap sometimes. I have had the incredible pleasure of spending a lot of time with youth in the past several years. I spent this weekend with four teens. They are awesome. I could not have had a more interesting, inspiring, energizing, enjoyable weekend doing anything else. It would have been perfect if my daughter was here but it wasn’t take your daughter to work day so she was having fun elsewhere. Besides, it is much more fun for mom than teen daughter to be hanging out together. I did get to hang out with some very awesome teens though that reminded me just how fragile and yet how strong the human spirit is, especially when young.
I have the honour of knowing many young women and men who have faced challenges, losses, and experiences in their lives that are overwhelming just to think of, and yet they are insightful, smart, funny, kind, respectful, talented beautiful individuals. I love just sitting talking with them. Not about anything at all, or about a television show or their favourite hobbies or classes or interests. Everyone of them loves to be listened to. I have not come across any that didn’t respond positively to being genuinely listened to and shown an interest in. Not in what I want to know about them, but what they want to share, not about what I am thinking, but about what they are thinking about…right that moment.
I think that is often where we go astray in life. Doctors, parents, teachers, healthcare and support staff, family and friends go into a conversation or interaction with their own agenda, their own preconceptions of what they want to learn and how to go about learning it. We think we need to be doing something to create memories or have a list of questions to get information….which is valuable and needed at times. But often what youth are in need of most, especially with the mental health crisis in Ontario right now, is someone to let them guide the conversation, to give them your time….not to take up their time but to listen, encourage and support.
I feel blessed to have the chance to learn about life and human strength and awesomeness from the youth I know and love. I count among my friends many of the young women I have served or gone camping with over the past several years.
I promise if you take time to listen, encourage and support a youth that you will learn about life, yourself, awesomeness and true potential. The more you invest your time and encouragement in them, the more joy and meaning your life will have in return. You have the opportunity to make or break greatness, to help someone realize or ignore their potential, to change a world and all it takes is an open mind, accepting heart and encouraging word.