Me and the Yuts

March 29, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

Last week I had the privilege of traveling to Houston with my buddy Rolfe Carawan. He was speaking at a Student leader’s Conference and he invited me along to help.

So there we were– two guys over 40 with about 420 student leaders from the south side (I think) of Houston. Now I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure that I can totally relate to the Yuts of today (A “yut” is a “youth”… if you didn’t get that you need to rent My Cousin Vinnie). They have grown up in a whole new world.

As I thought about how I can connect with the Yuts of today, I started wondering: Why do I feel like I can’t relate to them? Perhaps it’s because my daughters tell me that all the time (They don’t actually use those words… they don’t say, “Father, you can not relate to me and my friends”… They say other things like: you’re so queer; you’re such a dork; look at what dad is wearing; listen to what dad said; don’t speak anymore in front of my friends; I’m bringing a friend home– can you not be there; please don’t act like you know me; etc… I know that I am not the only parent to hear these words.) Perhaps it is because every generation feels like they can’t relate to the generation before them because things change so much. Perhaps every generation doesn’t want to think the next is “better” than them. Perhaps every generation thinks that the way they experienced life is the “right” way.

Imaginary conversation from the ancient past…

DAD: What’s that thing?

SON: It’s a bow and arrow…

DAD: What’s it for?

SON: I can hunt, defend myself, and attack from a distance.

DAD: From a distance?!? That’s not the way it’s supposed to be done!

SON: It’s safer– and more effective.

DAD: It’s whimpy… You’re so soft. In my day, we had a club or a sword– and that’s it!

SON: It’s progress.

DAD: Yeah, well the next thing you know, you’ll be wearing tights!

SON: Funny you should mention that…

I think it’s really easy to assume that the younger generation is clueless and wrong– and in a sense that’s true because they have not acquired the wisdom that only age can bring. But in Houston, the Superintendent of the schools said something I found rather thought provoking. He said this to the students: “You are smarter than us adults… You’re just not wiser.

You know what? I think he’s right. The Yuts of today know more about the world than I ever did. They understand more about diversity and different cultures. They learn about the environment. (Question: Any of you adults have a hard time helping your kids with their homework?! I do!)

These Yuts in Houston were incredible kids. They were everything that I don’t think that kids are these days: polite, appreciative, respectful, energetic, compassionate, unified, excited, hopeful. In fact, these kids were many things that I wasn’t when I was their age!

What am I trying to say? I guess I discovered that I can relate to kids because… well, they’re people. And I probably need to give them the props they’re due (I just used a cool word, huh). It’s easy to bash kids as lazy, selfish, unappreciative, and soft. But they are just growing up in the environment that we created.

For example. We are very worried about the education of our children. Other countries are passing up the US in test scores… and we blame the kids! Who’s teaching them? Who put together the curricula? Who is leading them? WE ARE! Or, at least, we’re supposed to. I’m reminded of a comment from Comedian Greg Giralldo. He said this:

I read that Cyprus has just passed the US in Math test scores. That’s ridiculous! That’s embarrassing! What’s happening to the youth of today?!… Then I realized that I didn’t even know that Cyprus was a country!

(Note: during this entire ramble, my spellcheck is going nuts– I didn’t even know “curricula” was a word!)

I was so pleasantly surprised and encouraged by the kids we spoke to in Houston, I had to do a little self-evaluation. Were those just special kids and was that a special situation? Or is my expectation and view wrong to begin with? I’m going to go with “B”. I think I head into many situations with a skewed view of reality. I assume that people are wrong, off, or heading a bad direction– and that can effect how I interact with them. In other words, the problem isn’t with them, it’s with me.

As hard as that lesson is to admit– I’d like to learn it. And I want to thank the Yuts for teaching it to me. And I need the Yuts in my world to keep teaching me.

So this is a shout out to my Yut peeps everywhere– keep on keepin’ on ya’ll (and clean up your room).

Grace and peace,


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