A Lesson from a Teenager: Maybe the Next Generation Really Is OK ; It Was a Classic Case of Older-Generation Hand-Wringing and Worry over Nothing

Article excerpt

I have grown children and a 3-year-old grandson. My contact with teenagers consists mostly of conversations that include "Is that for here or to go?"

Usually, the exchange goes something like this. Me, slowly and with emphasis: "I'd like a 16-ounce, sugar-free, skim milk vanilla latte, to go."

They say, "Will this be for here or to go?"

I say, "To go."

They say, "What size do you want?"

I say, "Sixteen ounces, the middle size."

They say, "Do you want whole milk or 2 percent?" I say, "Skim milk."

They say, "OK, a 16-ounce skim milk latte. Do you want flavoring?"

I say, "Sugar-free vanilla."

They sigh and say, "So, a 16-ounce, skim milk vanilla latte?" I say, "Yes."

They say, "For here or to go?"

I say to myself, "The future of the world rests on people with no attention span."

I see teenagers lined up for the film version of a classic novel or bestseller. I hear them say, "I tried to read the book, but it was, like, so not the movie."

And I think to myself, "The fate of the world rests with people who have no imagination."

Enter Abby. Exit my previously held concept of teenagers.

Abby is the daughter of a dear friend of mine. She is 16. I'd catch Abby here and there, slouching around the kitchen, hands around a mug of tea, bargaining with her mother over chores and errands, exchanging humorous quips with us, and taking things in with her slow smile.

One day she asked me for help with a college entrance essay. The topic she chose was to pick a character from literature or a piece of literature itself that had provided inspiration. She chose "Les Miserables"!

Ah, I thought, teenagers read things beyond the required reading list. But there was more. Her essay included some lines of sheer exuberance: "Then, a brilliant flash - this wonderful story of unrequited love, love at first sight, love for a stranger! Drama, scandal, passion, comedy! Oh, it was amazing, moving from page to page, word to word, soaking in all of the sights and sounds. …