“Kids these days.”
“None of them have any work ethic.”
“I’m worried for our future.”
Have you ever heard any of these phrases uttered about the youngest generation, typically referred to as Millennials? Have you maybe even uttered them aloud yourself?
I’m pretty sure I just said something in a similar vein to a friend I was visiting with at the pool last weekend. Shame on me.
It’s easy to point out what the up and coming generation is lacking. (While completely avoiding looking in the mirror and admitting what we might be lacking, naturally.)
It’s easy to see how they are labeled as entitled, spoiled, having a poor work ethic and my personal frustration, completely lacking in interpersonal skills. (Look up from your damn phone, kids!)
That’s only one side of the conversation and if we stop there, we’re missing the value that this generation does and will continue to contribute.
And I dare say it, if we’re not careful, we just might get outsmarted by them. And all our complaining and digging in about how right we are won’t really matter.
To be sure, this generation is different.
But that’s nothing new.
Every generation that came before this one has had differences (and clashes) with the others they shared life and work with.
Our tendency to stay focused on those differences is largely what will cause problems for our effectiveness as companies, communities, and as a society.
They are different. They are not worse.
In fact, there is one significant source of value that this generation is driving more than any other before it.
This generation has a social-mindedness that is unprecedented.
They actually believe they can change the world.
And right now, if you’re older than a Millennial, you might be rolling your eyes thinking, “Ugh. Change the world. Make a difference. Blah, blah, blah. At the end of the day, society still needs people to work. We can’t all just leave on a trip to poverty-stricken parts of the world and do that instead of earning our way.” (Was I close? Is that about what you were thinking? It’s OK. And it’s natural.)
Those sentiments may even be true.
But my point is that what if we, as communities, churches, and companies chose to speak to this generation in terms of the social impact we see them making?
What if we chose to tap into their strong sense of belief and purpose? What if we chose to praise them for what they contribute instead of criticizing them for what they lack?
Having a strong social conscious doesn’t only mean serving in grandiose, Instagram-worthy ways.
It can be as simple as being inspired by an idea seen somewhere else and trying to make it happen in your own backyard. (That’s what actually what I mean by world. These young people get inspired to better their world.)
This week in our small town, a group of volunteers, spearheaded by one young lady who was inspired by an idea, completed a community beautification project that really is amazing.
They created an expansive wall art mural on the external wall of one of the buildings on Main Street.
It took time, effort, and manpower to pull people together to accomplish it.
But it started with belief.
Belief that the idea mattered, belief that the idea would better our community and belief that the idea would make a difference.
And millennials naturally embody that belief more than the rest of us.
Then, I need to tell you about the sidewalk chalk artists in our town.
Two college-aged girls from our community who are home for the summer just completed their second round of decorating the streets of Main Street with positive, uplifting messages and images.
With bright, beautiful sidewalk chalk.
No one told them to do that.
They didn’t have to ask permission.
They had an idea and they acted on it.
It started with belief.
Belief that people need to be inspired and uplifted.
Belief that these messages would make people smile.
So I urge you.
As you detail the shortcomings of this generation, be careful not to ignore the incredible passion, purpose, and belief they bring to the table.
Isn’t is possible that if we tried to intentionally ignite that spark of belief in them, we’d find ourselves less frustrated by them? And who knows?
We might even find ourselves getting inspired. And I don’t know about you, but that’s a future I’m excited to be a part of.