I first began to see it when our daughter was working for Northwest Youth Corps.
I and my peers grew up in an era of "ecology." We spawned the most narrow-minded zealots interested only in keeping human hands off the "natural" environment -- and we spawned their narrow-minded counterparts, eager to deplete every resource as an intrinsic right as long as they've got money. But neither side won my generation's battle -- we came to a stalemate -- we got stuck at vilification.
Enter Northwest Youth Corps: a modern revival of the Civilian Conservation Corps, where the employees are kids and teens and young adults who learn not only environmental conservation, but also the science and ethics of the thing, and the leadership skills necessary for seeing and dealing with reality. They aren't afraid to cut down trees - they're unwilling to do it without thinking.
It was breathtaking for us as parents to see it - to hear them talking - to realize what they were doing out there in the woods, building trails, trimming trees, pulling blackberry briars and obnoxious scotch broom by hand, fueling their youth and vigor with peanut butter sandwiches, and circling up at the end of the day to air their daily concerns - especially their safety concerns. It was a big deal to get "chainsaw certified" and an even bigger deal when our own corps member stepped into her naturally fitted leadership roles. (Click on the pics to go to NYC's site. Get involved. Donate. Send your youth to the programs. It's life-changing.)
More recently, I saw this phenomenon in our youngest child's high school peers as well. Our boy liked to work out with the girls' soccer team. The coach allowed this as long as the boy wouldn't knock anyone down - and since social aggression was never interesting to this boy of ours (or the other one, for that matter), he preferred working out with the girls team.
So ... one day a couple of girls were standing in the kitchen waiting for the boy to run upstairs and change into some soccer clothes, and they watched me stirring things at the stove while I made dinner. One of the girls sighed, and said very wistfully, "I wish my mom knew how to make dinner. If dinner gets made at our house it's because Katy made it." (Her name wasn't Katy - but I can't remember what it was. I only remember that she referred to herself by her own name.)
And that sizes it up very nicely. She bore her parents (and various step-parents) no ill will, and there was no bitterness in her voice. Just longing -- and that oddly competent, cheerfully pragmatic attitude so apparent in that generation of kids. It needed to be done, so she figured out how. She had entirely and completely and without anger given up on her parents and simply shouldered the burden and gotten on with the work. I wanted to hug her. Instead, I asked what she likes to cook.
And now I hear it in the news!!! This is just so inspiring and happy making!
Mark Rembert, 24, was set to go to Ecuador with the Peace Corps when the largest employer in his hometown of Wilmington, Ohio, made a decision that left thousands without jobs. He decided to return home instead.
Taylor Stuckert, 23, who spent time with the Peace Corps in Bolivia, says he hopes he and Rembert can help bring lasting economic change to their hometown.
Rembert and Stuckert like to talk things over a lot. And they began to think that maybe some of the Peace Corps philosophy, of helping communities help themselves, might be just what Wilmington and surrounding Clinton County needed — that this might be a chance for some real economic change. Something, Stuckert says, that would last.Do we have to prove that "green living" will determine the global temperature before we can begin the pragmatic efforts of building communities? Take sides? Win debates? Nope. We just have to roll up our sleeves and get busy. Creative thinking is needed - cheerful pragmatism - acknowledgment of reality and a willingness to shoulder the burden, and without rancor or recrimination get the work done! I really do admire the generation my kids are part of. I really do. It's okay with me that they think uniforms are usually stupid - because they also seem to know when uniforms ought to be honored. The kids are getting the work done, and they think they can do the work without clobbering everyone else. So I say, Have at it! Go, kids, go!
"We think of development as building homes and putting people to work. But if the home doesn't stand up throughout the years and if the job doesn't stay, then the development wasn't really development because it wasn't sustainable," Stuckert says. "And that was something the Peace Corps really taught, and that it's not about going in and doing these huge projects."