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Don't look down…lift them up

Young people can't do what?
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Teaching the things that matter more

She was six years old when she developed an interest in gardening and began learning about the importance of bees. A friend named Dave Oliver suggested she explore beekeeping because, "If you don't have bees or pollen, you don't have a garden."

Elizabeth Downs took up the challenge and five years later cares for five hives, sells honey for charity and goes into schools to share her passion for beekeeping.

It was an adult who took her under his wing and taught her how to work with bees. Mr. Oliver saw an opportunity to teach a child something important because "beekeepers are not going to be able to do this forever, so it's important to get youth interested now." He did more than talk. He took the time to teach Elizabeth what she needed to get started and now she is thriving in a hobby which she hopes to turn into a career and become the state of Maine's apiarist.

I have heard many people the last number of years bemoaning the inability of young people to do what older ones considered to be basic tasks. It seemed they were looking down their noses at a generation that doesn't have the same skill set.

Young people today can't read clock faces. True, most didn't learn to tell time that way. They have grown up reading digital displays so an analog dial isn't as familiar to them.

Young people aren't able to make change. You're right, many of them don't handle a lot of money and perhaps aren't as comfortable with making change. But that doesn't mean they don't know how to do it.

Young people don't know how to fill out an envelope. Perhaps true, because it's not something they need to do often, so yes, when necessary they may need some help with that.

Which is the point. Regardless of the skill, it's vital we remember that we can all learn—if someone is willing to teach.

When people talk about what kids 'can't do' it seems they speak in such derisive tones. But why? Skills sets change all the time. It doesn't make one generation smarter - or better - than another. Different age groups know how to do different things.

I can't imagine doing laundry on a washboard. I wouldn't want to give up driving my car. And I am very appreciative of the fact that I can message my daughters every day even as one was 9,000 and the other 11,000 kilometers from home. These are things that make my life easier. More convenient.

There are many things, more important than coins or clock hands, that we should be decidedly more concerned our young people know how to do. Like how to sacrifice for others, how to admit when you're wrong, how to deal with disappointment, how to provide comfort to others, how to demonstrate compassion, how to work alongside people you may not like, or how to figure out the difference between wants and needs.

There's more. How to resolve conflict, how to stay away from gossip, how to balance virtual reality with real life, how to discern credible sources on line, how to debate without getting angry, and how to be honest when so much of what we see on screens is false and artificial.

Then again, these are all things we could be working on…together.

Skills needed in 2023 are of a different sort than were needed in 1923. But the aspects of our lives that define our character or how we make our way in the world are separate from developing a skill set. These are qualities that need to be modelled. They need to be taught. If we don't take the time to do that we are failing generations of kids.

Young Elizabeth asked to be taught how to be a beekeeper. In addition to that knowledge she has learned about work ethic, safety, and giving to others; all because adults walked alongside and passed on valuable life lessons.

We need to stop looking down at young people and instead lift them up. Let's be less worried about how they tell time and more interested in helping them wisely use their time. Instead of focusing on how they count their change let's teach them how to treat their money. And instead of wondering why they may not know how to send a letter let's be sure they are taught healthy ways to communicate. Then let's take those same lessons to heart. That's my outlook.





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