I admit it: the title is barbed. I know clueless Z-ers won’t read this blog because they don’t read much of anything. I also know some very smart pathfinders will.
I believe there are tens of thousands of young American bipeds who should be labeled CONFUSED. Though of the age we used to term “accountable”, they’ve been taught to
- ignore absolutes, especially moral ones.
- ignore their created gender, which is rough since there are a total of two.
- never think for themselves, and suspect any who suggest otherwise.
- believe themselves incapable of independent living and self-direction.
Taken as a whole, they’re the most unpalatable, undisciplined, self-absorbed, dependent, pampered, feckless generation of kids America’s yet produced. We’ve all seen the noxious results of parents letting their offspring “choose for themselves”. Can you say, “tantrum-and-toy-throwing-3-year-old-in-Walmart”? I believe this is the first time we’ve seen the disgusting mayhem in the garbage-strewn wake of an entire generation having been thus allowed.
No social graces, no sense of style, no self-esteem. Zero respect for authority, zero awareness of anything or anyone’s value, zero appreciation of work ethic. Common sense? Pride in appearance? Understandable speech patterns? Ability to write, to take direction? Understanding of delayed gratification? You’re kidding me, right?
Bill could have been one of them. He grew up envying poor people. He came of age very early, getting by on tossed-out leftovers. Bill went barefoot until he found he could get shoes from garbage cans. Even if the soles were gone, he’d use string to tie the shoe tops on his feet so it would look like he was wearing shoes. Respectable. Uptown.
Bill could have used any or all of the excuses we hear for joining gangs. It never happened. That kid had some goals. He had it in mind to be and do better. He knew sitting and whining would get him nowhere.
I sat and listened to him tell me his story as he scanned the polished halls of his city’s middle school, where he was the guidance counselor. He’d worked hard in school and after, taking any and every job he could find. Graduating with honors, Bill went through the incredible, specialized training to become an Army Green Beret, serving with distinction in various world hotspots.
Retiring, he came back home to walk the streets the bottoms of his feet knew well. He wanted to give yet more back to those coming up behind him. Finding every possible way to do that, Bill became
- worship leader in his church, his massive baritone heralding hope and challenge to the youth in the school who were drawn to him like a bunch of washers to a strong magnet.
- the head of the school’s detention program.
- active in the school’s vocal music program, encouraging and sometimes even adding a baritone or bass part to their efforts in concert when needed.
- a mentor to countless troubled teens growing up on the same hard, hardened streets that were his early home. Bill King was one tough dude, as more than one hulking kid found out – yet to a person they knew his high standards for them was because he loved them enough to help them become men and women able to make their own way in the world.
Point? Z-ers are NOT destined to be the mindless lemmings too many of their lazy, manipulative teachers have convinced them they must be. NOT destined to be lab samples dropped into the social-experiment petri dishes of the elders they were told they could trust.
Bill had a weekly group session with boys – young men – off the same streets where he’d eaten. To every one of them, he gave this Edgar A. Guest poem. It was a favorite of George Washington Carver, one of Bill’s teen idols. Bill made every one of those boys memorize this. Before they could get their completion certificate of his counseling course, they had to stand and recite it. Some of those men still have their certificates.
Figure it out for yourself, my lad.
You’ve all that the greatest men have had;
Two arms, to hands, two legs, two eyes,
And a brain to use if you would be wise.
With this equipment they all began.
So start for the top and say, “I can.”
Look them over, the wise and great–
They take their food from a common plate
and similar forks and knives they use.
With similar laces they tie their shoes.
The world considers them brave and smart,
But you’ve all they had when they made their start.
You can triumph and come to skill;
You can be great if you only will.
you’re well equipped for what fight you choose:
You have legs and arms and a brain to use,
And the man who has risen great deeds to do
Began his life with no more than you.
You are the handicap you must face.
You are the one who must choose your place.
You must say where you want to go,
how much you will study, the truth to know.
God has equipped you for life, but He
lets you decide what you want to be.
Courage must come from the soul within.
The man must furnish the will to win!
So figure it out for yourself, my lad:
You were born with all that the great have had;
With your equipment they all began.
Get hold of yourself and say, “I can.”
Poem recited by Dr. George Washington Carver during his commencement address at Selma University, Selma Alabama on May 27, 1942. From Collected Verse of Edgar Guest
NY: Buccaneer Books, 1976, pg. 666
Are you a “Z-er” hunting answers beyond the baby food you’ve been offered? Are you a pathfinder? Maybe an “X-er” or another concerned adult wondering what to do with the “Z-ers” paddling around in the wading pool of life?
Read this often. Be encouraged: no matter what challenges you’re facing, YOU CAN OVERCOME THEM. Bill King did, and I doubt you’ve had to fight your way through the junk he did. Be a champion encourager of those coming along behind you, like Bill. Refuse to let yourself major on minors. Keep the main thing – your personal goals, your dream – the main thing. Do first things first.
And always remember: I love you, and I believe in you.
© D. Dean Boone, April 2017