Every year at this time, the graduation of the area’s high school seniors seems to arrive at the same time we celebrate the Memorial Day holiday. Two completely different events — yet both that honor accomplishments.
I have so much respect for our nation’s veterans. When I think back on stories I’ve covered throughout the past 20-plus years, those involving veterans are some of the stories that are most near and dear to my heart. I’ve listened to their words; I’ve listened to their eerie silence. I am a better person for the distinct pleasure of hearing their stories and then being able to pass those stories onto you, our readers.
And then there are the graduates ... I love to look deep into their faces because I see hope and dreams which are alive and well. Though they express themselves far differently than those veterans, I enjoy those young graduates more than they’ll ever know. We are a newsroom that promotes and respects the abilities and opinions of young people, and more than one of them have contributed to this newspaper throughout the years.
So what’s my point? OK, it’s a bit convoluted, but stay with me. In my travels, I often hear people complain about young people — primarily their lack of responsibility, manners and respect. And while some of those negative words may be justified, I struggle with those who group all young people into that one category. There are people of all ages who are less than what society expects, however, that one “bad apple” shouldn’t influence the whole bushel, so to speak.
It still happens though. I see fingers pointed at young people all the time ... But I just have to wonder if those fingers are pointing at the right people. After all, those young people didn’t raise themselves (in some cases they probably did). If a young person doesn’t exhibit the proper manners or isn’t responsible, I have to look a little past their actions and think about who allowed this type of behavior in the first place. Kids aren’t born disrespectful or irresponsible. It’s learned ... or allowed behavior.
OK, I know there are those parents out there who are saying they did the best they could, and I’m sure they did. Some kids just have to spread their wings a bit. But by and large, when I see a young person who doesn’t fit into society’s mold of a fine, upstanding young person, I don’t point all my fingers at the young person, rather the adults in that child’s life who for whatever reason didn’t emphasize proper behavior.
Which leads me back to Memorial Day — a day when respect and responsibility should be paramount. How many young people do you see at Memorial Day services? But perhaps this is a better question: How many adults do you see at Memorial Day services? I go every year, and every year, the number of people in attendance hurts my heart.
It’s my theory that if we want young people to be respectful — especially to our nation’s veterans — then we, as adults, have to lead by example. I came to understand the importance of the day because my grandparents and my mom always made me attend Memorial Day services with them. Kicking and crying all the way, I was drug out of my bed and made to stand next to my family as they paid their respects to our nation’s veterans. Now, I wouldn’t think of missing a Memorial Day service.
Monday is Memorial Day. I encourage everyone to take their children, grandchildren, the neighbor kids ... whoever to a Memorial Day service in our area. By doing so, we continue a tradition that shouldn’t be forgotten, and we teach valuable lessons of respect and responsibility. I hope to see you there ...