Teens aren’t as selfish as you think

It’s interesting how life throws you into conversations and provides coincidences that make you think long and hard about your convictions. Just a couple hours ago, I sat talking to a friend who lamented her son’s thoughtlessness and inconsideration. I won’t go into details to protect the not-so-innocent; suffice it to say that she didn’t appreciate her son’s lack of concern for her or her plans. We talked about how self-centered kids (even grown ones) can be and wondered how old our kids would have to be before they actually considered us when making plans.

One hour later, I came across this story while killing time on Facebook. It tells of a 14-year-old boy, who, in an effort to preserve feelings and be kind to all, purchased a Valentine balloon for every single girl at his school. He funded this gift from money he had earned and saved over the years. Extraordinary, I thought. So there are kids who think of others and make sacrifices for the greater good.

Actually, while the story was uplifting and sweet, it wasn’t all that shocking to me, because if I’m honest, I see kids committing acts of kindness on a regular basis. That’s the wonderful thing about being a teacher – I’m surrounded by kids all day long, and I get to see the good, the bad, and the ugly, the realness of young human beings who are so much more than the stereotypical selfish brats portrayed in the media. Kids, particularly teenagers, still enjoy a sense of youthful abandon. While we adults make sacrifices, keenly aware of what we’re giving up, they simply give because it’s the right thing to do at the time.  Kids embody the notion of pureness of heart and selfless generosity so often lacking in adult giving.

I have the pleasure of leading my school’s National Honor Society, where students perform regular service in and around the community. I also chaperone mission trips, where kids work all day, sometimes performing heavy manual labor and many times stepping out of their comfort zones, to help those less fortunate. I’m here to tell you that if you think kids are selfish and teenagers don’t care about anyone but themselves, you need to spend more time with them. I’m lucky and blessed that I get to see just how incorrect that assumption is. Kids are no more selfish or self-centered than adults, and in fact, tend to have unbiased and not-yet-cynical mindsets that cause them to reach out to others without judgment or prejudice. They help the impoverished without questioning the recipients’ work ethic or financial responsibility. They work among various races without rolling their eyes and muttering that their predicament is just so typical. They see need for exactly what it is – need – and they step up to fill it, no questions asked.

We adults may think that kids just don’t know enough yet, but perhaps they know something we’ve forgotten. Perhaps they remember that everyone deserves a second or third chance, that it doesn’t hurt to give, and that everyone, at the end of the day, just wants to feel valued. Whether it’s a boy buying Valentines for every insecure, longing-to-be-accepted girl, or kids traveling to third-world countries to provide comfort, kids are out there, every day, making a difference.



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