So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they’re busy doing things they think are important. This is because they’re chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning. ~ Mitch Albom, Tuesdays with Morrie
I just finished teaching this book to my students. It was a book they loved reading because Morrie reminded them of their grandfather. They appreciated his positivity and strength as he slowly and painfully died from ALS. No Ice Bucket Challenge for Morrie, just a deep introspection of his relationships, his loves, and his purpose for living. You may find it hard to believe that healthy 16-year-olds with the world at their feet would relate to this book in the least. But they did. They recognized that this 78-year-old had chutzpah, an admirable ability to tell the truth, and a whole lot of wisdom. They saw themselves in his words:
Devote yourself to loving others. Teens are notorious for being self-centered, but they can also display impressive generosity. They love with every part of their hearts, embrace others with almost reckless abandon, and have a loyalty streak deeper than you’re likely to find in any other age group. Doubt me? Watch a teen defend his brother, the very one he claims he can’t stand. Watch a young high-school couple fight every other force in their lives just so they can see each other on a Friday night.
Devote yourself to your community around you. About one-fourth of teens actively volunteer through service organizations that report this effort. But teens regularly participate in blood drives, canned food collections, holiday toy donations, and other efforts for which society rarely credits them. They pitch in when someone they know endures a tragedy. They report concerns about their friends to higher authorities who can help. For all of their supposed selfishness, they contribute more to our community than most will ever know.
Devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning. This is where YOU, the parents, come in. The teenagers in your life need help figuring out their next steps. The world is almost too big for them, the menu too full of choices. Their frustration and moodiness are often a direct reflection of the number of decisions they have to make. You can help by asking questions and providing experiences that help them narrow choices and discover their gifts. Guide them to interest inventories, encourage them to find out more about careers of interests, insist that they pursue their passions, and determine what makes them tick. Make sure that their lives are filled with activities that give them purpose; engage their bodies, minds, and hearts; and ultimately lead to lives with no room for regret.