On more than one occasion in recent weeks, I've been somewhere in public and overheard discussions regarding "kids today."
They spend too much time on their phones.
They don't spend enough time reading.
They don't know how to socialize properly.
Whatever will become of them?
I kept my mouth shut then, but if you've ever found yourself complaining about the state of our youth, I want you to know that you don't need to worry.
I have two kids, but they're still pretty squarely in the "cute little kid" phase, where no one pins the downfalls of society on them. But I have had the opportunity this summer to spend a lot of time with a group of kids who do fit into that category about which people love to complain - adolescents and pre-adolescents.
I had planned this summer to coach my older daughter's T-ball/coach-pitch team. But then I learned the man who has kept our town's softball team going even beyond his own children's playing days was not able to coach this year. And no one else was volunteering.
Somewhere in the back of my head was a line from the Carole King song, "Now and Forever," on my favorite movie, "A League of Their Own."
"Some people never get to do all we got to do."
I had a childhood full of adults giving their time to allow me to do pretty awesome things. The coaches who helped me realize a goal of playing a college sport. The 4-H leaders who taught me new skills. The parents, both mine and others, who encouraged me. How could I, who experienced all that, deny other kids an opportunity to play?
So I raised my hand and said I'd take the softball team, while helping with the T-ball team.
As the end of our short season draws near, I find myself grateful for the time I've spent with those 19 girls. They range in age from 7 to 13. Those can be rough ages for kids, girls in particular. That's when the petty arguments and spiteful comments can start, when cliques form and people get left out.
But not with this group. I've yet to hear a single negative comment out of the mouths of these girls. They cheer for each other. They help each other. They support each other. I've gotten to know a little about their lives. A pair of sisters played a part in getting a food pantry started at their church, something our town didn't have before.
All of the girls have their priorities in order, letting me know that they will forego games in order to participate in 4-H events at the county fair or to attend church camps. Many of the girls help out around their homes and farms, with one girl going so far as to tell me on a survey at the beginning of the season that she "loves cows."
I hope they've learned a little about softball. But I more so hope they've had fun. They've kept me laughing and have given me a lot of hope that their generation is far from buried in technology and unable to function. They're growing up in a different world than I did, and they're navigating it well.
We can't afford to throw out a younger generation, to assume they're not capable or are somehow lesser than those who came before them. This is especially true in small towns and rural areas. Our young people are not just our future, they're our present, too.
If you find yourself deriding the youth of our society, put it on pause. Get to know them. Give your time and talents to help them with something.
I'm willing to bet they'll surprise you.