A break from cynicism

Published 8:26 pm Wednesday, April 22, 2009

It is an easy thing to become cynical in today’s world.

It does not take a lot of imagination.

But this weekend, thankfully, I got to take a break from all of that.


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My church’s youth group went on its annual spring retreat this past weekend, and I was on hand as a chaperone. Chaperones are sort of necessary because this particular event is a combination of eight youth groups from across the state. A total of more than 200 high-schoolers were running around together up at a campsite in Goshen.

Let me tell you, if this weekend was any indication of the true ingenuity and goodwill of the next generation, then we are in good shape.

First of all, I have come to learn that “volunteering” with youth groups is the best type of philanthropic work, because it’s just plain fun.


I played basketball with the kids for five hours on Saturday, and had thus fulfilled my responsibilities as a chaperone. Not a bad gig.

Second, these kids are just good, smart and fun kids.

You could argue that because the majority of them are church kids it’s sort of a skewed sample. But I argue that church attendance does not automatically equate to integrity, especially since I grew up in church with many kids who were neither this fun, this smart nor this well behaved.

I watched as all the students (not just my youth group) laughed together, played together and worked together as a team, whether that was on the camp’s soccer field or while they were cleaning up the cabins to leave.

I listened on our drive home as my carmates talked openly about the problems facing their high schools and how they wished that so many of their peers had the opportunity to go on trips like this one to realize the bigger picture in life.

And I noted how important it is to quit focusing on the negative. We are bombarded all the time with statistics and stories of the younger generation dropping out of school, breaking the law or not being as educated. While we need to fight these problems head on, we also need to realize we have some mighty allies in that war: the students themselves.

Some of you might not have the time or the schedule to be able to volunteer full-time with the community’s students, and I understand that. But we are all capable of congratulating and encouraging the young men and women in our neighborhoods when they are doing their best to fight against this culture’s cynicism about them.