“Oh, I don’t know about today’s youth, they just don’t have values,” an elderly woman confided to me. “The world just isn’t what it used to be.”
She was scared. She sounded worried, not angry, not judgemental, not self-righteous. She was in her late 80s, and clearly worried about what was to become of the world she helped construct. Even so, I couldn’t let the comment pass unchallenged. I never do.
“I don’t agree. By any objective measure, crime is down, teen pregnancy is down, divorce is down. There are fewer wars. Less starvation. Higher standards of living, not just here, but around the world. I think this generation is more accepting of difference. And just look at how active the youth were when Hurricane Maria hit us. They didn’t turn inward. They looked to help. Such energy, they have. I know for a fact that they are better than the generation that preceded them.
“You really think so?” She said, clasping her hands together. “Oh, that’s good to hear.”
I could have indulged her fears. I could have been quiet. I could have started complaining, mirroring her preoccupations and fear mongering, but how easy it was to change the entire dynamic with an profession of faith in the future, that we’re going to be okay, that things aren’t as dire as they seem.
How the future appears to be is a byproduct of how we talk about it.
So blessed are the peacemakers, who respond to our better selves, and help to foment the conditions where anxious people don’t become more fearful and lose themselves to despair.