The columns and writings of
Peggy L. Elliott
"" What's Up With These Kids Today?

Most of us don't often get the opportunity to see the good side of kids. We hear about the problems - the drinking, the drugs, the sex, on into the delinquency, the violence, the lives broken beyond repair before they've even claimed their twenty-first birthdays.

When we are allotted examples of positive, and very public, behavior - with "Good Kids doing Good" headings - it's so often presented in some overblown, Osmond Family sort of way which feels phony, looks staged and is unbelievable. What we don't see is what we're hoping for: the ordinary kid being a decent, respectful ordinary kid. The one we've told a million times to not talk with her mouth full of food. The boy we had to remind to take out the garbage every Sunday night for years. The ones we hounded until they wrote all the thank you notes for their Christmas presents and to be grateful for each and every act of kindness anyone took the time to show them.

These are the kids we fussed over, fumed over, fought over every single day. They're not yet heroes, but given the opportunity they will be. Who they are is the kid who ran down the street in the pouring rain, chasing down the neighbor's garbage can and bringing it safely back where it belonged. And this kid, having performed the good deed, did so while the neighbor was at work, forever to be unaware of the consideration granted him that afternoon.

There are many, many kids who will do this and other helpful, useful and major or minor good deeds. They do them not because they've been ordered to, but because it's the right thing to do, they know it, and they do it. Whether the lessons taught were absorbed by osmosis or hypnotics, it doesn't matter. What does matter is somehow, some way, the years we've invested in turning our offspring into good people have not been wasted.

Still, parents on the front line of child-rearing know we're pretty much left to prayer, hope and the creeping on-set of age-related memory loss when left to face down our offspring's teenage years. And we find ourselves wondering: at what point down the straight-and-narrow path of our "righteous" teachings had our sons and daughters had heard enough, veering off into the woods unnoticed.

They frequently hide their hearts of generosity and their souls of compassion under a well-rehearsed "couldn't care less" attitude. Some have grown so adept at hiding their true inner natures, those of us who are their parents can't help but fear the dark futures we envision for them.

I have been lucky, though, for I have been shown this true character we always suspected was in there, but maybe hadn't been seen before today.

While attending the recent Sevastopol High School Academic Achievement Luncheon, a young man took note of me and my wheelchair. A buffet was being served and those at my table had taken their leave to gather their food. I remained behind, alone at the table, listening to the various student musicians perform. Quietly, this young man had leaned down beside me, volunteering to assist me so I could get my turn at the buffet. I thanked him for his kind offer and informed him arrangements had been made and my plate would be brought to me. I doubt this polite, well mannered young man gave any further thought to the incident, for I have a feeling it's the sort of thing he does on a regular basis.

I'm sorry I don't know the name of this young man, but it doesn't really matter. That day he represented all the good kids and all the good they stand willing to do, when needed. His parents probably don't know anything about his offering to help a lady in a wheelchair - the specifics aren't necessary. He made the offer because it was the kind and decent thing to do, because he is a kind and a decent person. Because when he veered off that path into the woods, the words of his parents were already instilled in his psyche.

Unfortunately, there is rarely a reward of glory or fame for those who believe in the power of goodness and quietly leave their marks on the world, one kindness at a time. But knowing this young man, and the great many others like him, will make this world their own someday makes me feel more positive about the future. In the end, the good we've done - given in bits and pieces, stolen strands of our time, the promises of hope whispered to those who have none, are what paves the road down which charity leads us into the heart of humanity.

Our children, in all their unique and wonderful ways, have done and will continue to do, us proud.

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© Peggy L. Elliott 2006