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Another voice: Today’s adults, once teenagers, must guide our youth

By Alexander J. Wright

With day-to-day responsibility, stress and worry, I think people tend to forget that being human makes us fallible, fragile and easily broken. This is intensified exponentially when it’s applied to youth. We forget that they are trying to form their own opinions and discover the world they are becoming more and more a part of. They are trying to attract the affections of the opposite sex. They are trying to prove themselves relevant in their social circles. They are confused.

Their hormones are in flux. They are in need of direction but are vehemently resistant to it.

But just as an ex-smoker is the hardest on current smokers, we, the ex-teenagers, are the hardest on the current ones. What’s most surprising to me is that we are shocked by their behavior, as if we weren’t the same just a few decades ago. Many will say, “I was never as disrespectful.” But if we went back and asked the elders of our day, they were just as alarmed and annoyed as we are today.

Socrates said: “The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs and tyrannize their teachers.”

This quote is from 400 B.C., approximately 2,500 years ago. My point is, when dealing with youth, we have to remember that time in our lives so we can better relate to them. Yes, Lil Wayne is more important to them than President Obama. And, yes, that is a shame. But remember how important DMX, Run DMC, Curtis Mayfield or whoever was to you.

While it may be a teenager’s time to be a little irresponsible and foolish, we can’t react to that with the same foolishness. We cannot distance ourselves or refuse to interact with them. That is tantamount to the person who doesn’t vote complaining about how the country is run. They need us. Ladies, these young women need to learn how to be ladies and in some cases mothers. Gentlemen, these young boys need to learn how to be men and in some cases fathers. They will only get it if we, the humble, do the impossible for the ungrateful.

And if we cannot because it is the right thing to do, then let us selfishly do it because, like it or not, they are our future and we will be directly affected by them for the rest of our lives. We may feel we are too busy, but that is merely an excuse to be apathetic. And remember, you cannot spell apathetic without the word pathetic, which is what our society becomes when we don’t act. Plus, we know that excuses are the tools of the incompetent, and those who specialize in them are rarely capable of doing anything else. Let’s do something else.

Alexander J. Wright is executive director of Urban Christian Ministries in Buffalo.