August 26, 2005

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

Emphasizing what is right with teens of today

A friend gave me a copy of an e-mail that listed what is wrong with today’s teenagers. Another friend challenged me to counter that message with a positive list of my own. Delaying the “assignment,” I set the first list near some file papers that inadvertently were recycled, never to be seen again.

The only item on the first list that I can recall is something about teens taking the beauty out of music. In some cases, maybe so. However, it is mostly adults who write and produce popular teen music and lyrics. Besides, if we don’t like the music that teens listen to we can ignore it (when possible)—unless we know it is obscene or violent. Parents have a duty to react to evil appropriately and instruct children properly.

More important, I have enjoyed teens’ music in school productions, in liturgies, at both Catholic and Protestant funeral services and at social events. Their talents and extracurricular activities usually edify and even amaze me, although I do worry about the state of their hearing if the volume isn’t turned down.

So what other positive points can be found in our teens? Having grandsons age 22 and age 5 does not make me an authority, but watching the older one go through his teens was a blessing. My husband and I kept tabs on his educational and sports activities, attending events as much as possible in Plymouth, Ind. He received a partial college soccer scholarship, involved himself in Church activities and worked. Last year, he dropped out of college to earn money for a semester in Europe, but now steadily works again, hopefully to return to college.

Also, I see only good in my extended family’s teens, in the youth I watch growing up in my area, and in parish teens sponsoring events to benefit others both here and abroad. Perhaps I’m “living in a bubble,” but the teens I know are ­courteous, studious and good examples.

The media keeps me informed about youth involved with drugs and crime, and other dangerous or mischievous pastimes. Although the media also highlights the good in the younger generation, I believe much more of what’s right and good needs to be emphasized.

When teen troubles do occur, how often have we heard their old excuse, “We didn’t have anything else to do” or “I was bored”? This routine response must be and is addressed by vigilant parents, youth leaders and teachers on an ongoing basis. If our youth are busy helping at home, in the neighborhood, and at schools and church—if they learn to channel their intelligence and energy into productive projects—they will not be bored. If they focus only on themselves, how will they ever mature into responsible adults?

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)


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