I walked into the group discussion I was running last night dreading how it was going to turn out. Warning, potential curmudgeon-like statement about to follow; the target was 18-20 year olds and the topic was technology and this is a target that I dread interviewing because they are the “me” generation.  You know, those we are told who got a medal for simply showing up and those who can’t take their eyes away from a screen long enough to have a real conversation. Little did I know the surprise I was in for.

As a pre-interview assignment, we asked each group participant to come prepared to tell us about a time in their life that they did something great.  We kept the assignment purposely vague as we wanted each person to define what “great” meant to them.  I was prepared for things such as, “You know, one day, I hugged my mom without her telling me to,” or “Like, one Saturday I woke up before 11 and went for a walk.”

I was not prepared for the following:

  • “I noticed that our housekeeper would bring her young daughter with her to help clean the house.  I found out the girl couldn’t read so I started teaching her how to.”
  • “There is a kid who goes to the school where I work [as a recess supervisor]. His dad was shot and killed in front of him. He has it pretty bad at home.  I entered him into a contest, wrote a letter on his behalf, and he won.  Now he will got to a fancy summer camp all summer. His mother called me with tears in her eyes.”
  • “I was working one summer and someone abandoned a bunch of puppies near where I was working.  They were in bad shape and had ticks all over them.  My friends and I took care of them and got them healthy enough to be adopted, otherwise they would have died.”
  • “My friends and I, we started this program for at risk youth. We go into the local elementary schools and tutor those kids who need the most help for an hour. Then we get outdoors and do something active with them.”

Those are just 4 stories and there are others. This generation who are much maligned aren’t so selfish after all and while reflecting on this, I learned more about myself than I did about them. The younger generations have always been those with the desire to change the world and we older folk don’t give them nearly enough credit for wanting to do so. Now get off my lawn!