I shouldn’t be alive today


A conversation was taking place at work about the differences between today’s youth and the kids of my generation (and earlier). I know you’ll be stunned to hear this… but most of the people thought that the kids of today are whiney pussies. (I’d put that in quotes, but the actual quote isn’t quite as friendly. This pretty much captures the sentiment.) And it’s worth noting that the feeling expressed went beyond the inability of the newest generation to walk to school, in a blinding rain, uphill… both ways.

(I’ll pause here for a moment so you can fully absorb this stunning news.)

The more you think about it though, the more you understand that beyond the funny name-calling aspects of it, there is definitely something to the claim. The biggest example I’ll bring to you involves general health. Have you heard about the studies and articles and theories about how the youth of today are more likely to have problems with allergies, illnesses and all sorts of maladies because they don’t eat dirt? Or… more precisely… because everything is so clean, the slightest presence of a germ sends their health into a tailspin.

Let’s think about water as an example.

When I was younger and played outside, there was no such thing as bottled water. Not in the current sense of the concept. We drank from the hose… the same hose we had just picked up off of the ground… the same hose we chided one friend for putting his lips against… used for filling the pool and watering the garden… and laughed when the neighborhood dog arrived and took his turn in line.

Oh sure… when we biked over to the park to play tennis, occasionally one of us would be smart enough to fill a thermos with water or lemonade or whatever. But if we wiped the edge of it between drinks and passing it around, it was usually with our sweaty t-shirts.

Long story short… we weren’t carrying individual water bottles. We were kids playing and having fun.

And I don’t see that today.

Maybe it’s computers and video games… kids playing inside instead of in the neighborhood. Maybe it’s not. But it sure seems like everyone assembling for massive rounds of hide and go seek has hidden and gone away.

On a universal scale, I believe most of it is a generational thing and the differences are pretty slight. For instance…

I can go to my old home right now and get my father, blindfold him, and bring him to any baseball field in the city I grew up in… which happens to be the same city he grew up in. Then, I could bring him from the car to within fifteen feet of the concession stand. And… I guarantee you… that with ten minutes of taking the blindfold off, he will have found at least one person he knows personally, two people that are related to people he went to school with, and, depending on which of the city high school teams is playing, probably be able to identify at least four players on the field by name.

In short… he knows his community.

The other day Terry, Justin and I stopped in a restaurant. As a waiter approached the table, it turned out Justin knew him. They started casually exchanging a few names… catching up on who was where and doing what.

Not quite the same as identifying people 40 years down the road, but the general concept holds true. Ghost in the graveyard… day long pick up games of baseball in a cul de sac… whatever… even if Justin didn’t have these neighborhood moments, he too knows something of his community. He has been out in the world. And in several ways… I suppose… he has found the hose on the ground for a drink or two on a summer day.

Maybe. Figuratively, if not literally.

My point there being that generations differ in what kinds of events and experiences they provide. And sheltered is not the specific term I’d choose to use in saying that the kids of today are… as previously established… whiney pussies. That evidence has to come from some place else.

So what is it?

I never wore a helmet while riding a bike. And I rode it all over the place. No ride to soccer practice? A new album I wanted, but the parents not around to take me to the store? A friend calling and no other way to get to his house? Grab the bike and off I went…

Depending on where you look, you’ll find that seat belts in cars become a pattern roughly around 1958 – 1960. It would be a few years later before they become common, and a few years after that for them to catch on as standard items for the rear seats. Effectively, that makes my generation the first born with seat belts in automobiles. My how the times have changed.

And while I may look at safety helmets while riding a bike in the neighborhood as wrong… just wrong… the seatbelt issue is probably a better example of how safety equipment and protecting children has improved over the years.

See the reality is… even if I want to believe that kids today have it easier… with their computers and their toys and their lack of two mile hikes to and from school… I’m wondering if it’s really just me, and my generation, needing to think of them as weaker and untested. We all want more for our kids… while hoping they face less pain as they get it.

Perhaps the kids of today could use a bit more dirt in their diet. And perhaps they could use more responsibility and more accountability around the house. But the fact that they have it easier is a credit to those that came before. And those things we encountered and survived… years of bike riding without a helmet… may or may not be important when considering how easy these kids really have it.


If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com