More about hope: A shout out to the young ones

“Yea, well, you’re naive”, said my co-worker as we were weeding a patch of cauliflower. The comment came several years ago in response to my analysis that, although the world is undeniably filled with terrible things, there is great suffering and disaster and corruption, I still felt hopeful.

My co-worker’s response left a bad taste in my mouth, one that I carried home and ruminated on for a while. I thought about the definition of the word, naive, having a lack of experience or knowledge, and about the course of my then short 25 year life: I have lived with AIDS orphans and looked into their liquid hungry eyes. I have sat with people who have no running water or electricity and couldn’t live. I have slipped extra food into the bag of a child I knew was living on the streets with her 4 brothers and sisters, and have comforted a young girl who was picked on for being the only black girl at her school.

I am not naive. There is certainly plenty that I do not know about the world, but I am not unaware of the horrors of the world and how they play out on the tenderest of lives in it.

But, I do choose to orient myself towards hope, which, for those who choose cynicism, is perceived as naivety.

As I thought about my co-worker’s comment, and my own life, I started to wonder: Why am I so hopeful? Where did my hopefulness come from? Why do I choose that over cynicism?

There are a lot of answers to that question, but one that shines through, one that is connected to both my understanding of suffering in the world as well as my great experience of joy and hope.

Ever since I was young, when I was a kid myself, I have spent a great deal of time with people younger than me. I have baby sat, taken care of younger siblings and cousins, taught summer camp, tutored, run youth programs, lead backpacking groups and taught afterschool. My life is and always has been dedicated to connecting with, supporting, loving on and empowering youth. I think their voices are so vital in our world as guiding voices and unique prospectives.

And, how can you not be hopeful if you spend time with youth? Their boundless optimism, their unending energy and ideas and thirst for life is a profoundly hopeful and enlivening force in the world and in my life.

So, when it seems like our nation needs hope the most, and as I am embarking on exploring the topic through writing, it seems right to turn to a constituency from whence it flows naturally: Youth. Babies, kids, adolescents, 1-year-old’s taking their first steps and toddlers stringing together their first sentences and teenagers emerging into their own understanding of themselves.

This is my deepest expression of gratitude to the hundreds and thousands of youth who have touched my life, who have written me cards and drawn me pictures and made me earrings, who have inspired joy and celebration and humor and who, through their eyes, I have seen the glimmer of hope, the notion that while I am a part of a generation now who is working to make things better for the younger generations, when my generation gone, I there will be this younger generation, the youth of today, will be working to make the world better for the next generation, the ceaseless cycle of progress, ever-renewed by the vigor of youth.

And, one last thing, I especially have youth on the mind right now, as tomorrow I leave to lead a backpacking trip with a group of amazing high school girls from the San Francisco Bay Area. We will be backpacking in the Eastern Sierras for 11 days and summitting Mt. Langley, which stands at just over 14,000 ft tall. It is incredibly beautiful lead this trip annually with GirlVentures, an organization which teaches leadership, personal empowerment and social justice to girls through outdoor adventure.  These kinds of experiences, where youth are wildly out of their element and challenged and supported and held in a tight container, are absolutely vital to healthy development, and a healthy world. We need to support our youth, and give them opportunities to grow. It will surely be an exciting and inspiring adventure, one which I will be excited to share with you all when I return.

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2 Comments on “More about hope: A shout out to the young ones

  1. Pingback: My whirlwind month (and why I haven’t written lately) | Voices

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