I see a lot of stuff on the Internet about kids these days. I see lists of things Millennials are killing. I hear grumbling about how young people today don’t know the value of the dollar, or how their eyes are always glued to a screen, or how they’ll never move out of their parent’s houses.
I also sometimes see negative commentary about our local youth. How they drive too fast, swear in front of our kids at Starbucks, loiter in public parks, or play music too loud from their headphones in the library.
To be honest, I’m kind of tired of the negativity. Every generation has had its problems, and the upcoming one is no exception. But I want to tell you a little story--one that might restore your hope in our community’s future.
Last Saturday, my family and I walked down to the library for the City of Gilroy’s annual Kids Discover Art event. Eighteen different booths were set up with a different art project for kids to try their hand at. My four year old loved it. We stayed more than two hours and did fifteen of the eighteen projects, and she still dragged her feet when it was time to leave. It truly was a phenomenal family event. Despite there being hundreds of attendees, we never once had to wait in line at a station.
Why? Because at each table, there were about ten smiling volunteers looking my daughter in the eye and inviting her to have a seat. Then they would learn her name, and walk her through the project, helping her if she needed it but never rushing her.
Most of these volunteers were high-school-aged children. High schoolers spending their Saturday morning helping little kids make art.
Well they get community service credit for that, you might say. Sure. But to get their volunteer hours, all they had to do was show up. They didn’t have to smile. They didn’t have to give my daughter high fives. They didn’t have to tell her that her self-portrait was awesome or that her name (Georgie) is “so spunky.”
They didn’t have to make her day.
At the butterfly-wing-or-bow-tie-making station (yes, this was a real thing), a teen boy volunteer wore a paper bow tie in front and butterfly wings in back for the children to have a visual model to help them decide what they wanted to make. Georgie chose the butterfly wings, and my husband, Josiah, and I sat back with the baby while the young man joked and laughed with her as she decorated her wings. Meanwhile, a youth Mariachi band played for the children.
At this moment, I turned to my husband and said, “how can we make sure our girls end up like this?” motioning to the young volunteers all around us.
“Well, we can raise them here,” he said. I agreed--they are growing up in a community where events are powered by teen volunteers. They have “big kids” to look up to. As a parent, this brings me great comfort. Who knows, maybe Georgie will remember the "art festival" behind the library, and when she is a teen, she will want to help another 4-year-old girl make clay ornaments on a Saturday morning.
“Also, would it be weird if I passed around a sign-up sheet and had these kids write down their names and phone numbers so I can contact them for babysitting opportunities?” I asked. Josiah gave me his desperate please don’t embarrass me look, so I dropped it.
But… if you are one of those kids… feel free to reach me.