Dear American Youth (or, Youth of Western Culture),
I never wanted to be the adult that tells you that you need to live a radically different life than all the other teenagers around you. But, unfortunately, I am going to be that adult as of right now.
See, somehow, we adults have created this very blind culture specifically for you (mostly to get your money). It is a culture of music and clothing and dating and make-up and protein powder and the perfect hair and posters of cool people and movies and cars and fast food and cell phones and texting and apps and…well, the list goes on. Unfortunately, the main message of this culture is that “it’s all about you”. That you, as an adolescent, DESERVE to have the perfect boyfriend or girlfriend, to look perfect, to be constantly surrounded by things to entertain you and that you enjoy. It’s all about you. There’s a multi-billion dollar industry focused on this. Unfortunately, it’s a multi-billion dollar lie.
And so I need to apologize to you. You’ve been lied to, and really, I think your teen years are being stolen from you. While you are being told that you need to live as if the world revolves around you, your teenage years are slipping by in a daze of money spent in a reckless fashion, of years being spent pursuing empty things like being cool or being the best volleyball player, (or actor, or just that girl that everyone wants to be). Empty, silly pursuits.
One hundred and fifty years ago, you didn’t get an “adolescent” period of life. You went directly from being a kid to being an adult. You were expected to be responsible. You were probably married during what we would consider your “adolescence” (not because you “fell in love” but because it was the best way to survive) and you were suddenly an adult. In fact, your whole entire childhood was spent learning how to function as an adult, how to survive the real world and keep yourself alive. It was a full-time job back then. But now…well, that’s not really how it works, is it? Other than school (which is GREAT on giving you information, but how much of it teaches you to pay your bills, or buy healthy groceries, or to budget, or to get a job and keep it? Or have a successful marriage?), what are we doing to prepare you for real life? Not much. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a teacher. I think there is A LOT of good that can be found in school. But… but I think we’re missing something pretty major. We don’t teach you to be an adult. We don’t challenge you in ways that we should. Maybe because the world is constantly changing and we don’t know how to challenge you anymore, so we gave up.
And SO, the point, the challenge. Don’t be like every other teen out there. Don’t spend all your money on fast food, music for your ipod, the newest clothes, your girlfriend/boyfriend, or make-up. Don’t spend all your teen years wishing you looked different, trying to look different. Don’t be a teen whose sole desire is to have a significant other, or to be cool. Don’t spend all your free time on Facebook, or playing video games.
Instead, GO OUT AND DO SOMETHING. Save your money and travel. It doesn’t have to be expensive. There are so many people in the world who have so much less than you – figure out a way to give to them, and I don’t mean just giving them your money. Sure, sponsoring a kid in Africa is great, but they need so much more than that. The WORLD needs so much more from you than that. Give them your heart. Figure out how to actually get involved in their lives. Go on a mission trip. Figure out how to get clean water to that kid in Africa who has never had a glass of clear, pure water. Figure out how to start a business that imports the bracelets that kid’s sister makes and then sell those bracelets through a department store. Because you can. As a teenager, you are incredibly creative and resourceful. You can do crazy-impossible things because you haven’t bought into the lie that you can’t yet.
Please, don’t spend your teen years on absolute silliness. Find something you care about and invest in it. Your teen years are so crucial to your adult life. They are years God gave you to experience life with SO much passion and excitement. They are years meant to help you figure out who God is calling you to be, to figure out what passions and desires and gifts He has placed in your heart.
And I think, to some extent, that’s why there is so much around you to distract you. Think about it, if you weren’t distracted at all, if you weren’t spending your weekends in the malls or in movie theaters or in front of some sort of screen, what would you be doing? Really, what would you find to invest in? What do you care about?
Well, be different. Go change the world. Go invest in whatever wonderful, challenging mission it is that God has placed on your heart. You can do it; through Him we can do ALL THINGS. Don’t let anyone tell you different. So go. Turn off the TV, stop texting your BFF every other second, log out of Facebook, put down the remote or the controller, and go conquer the world. It doesn’t revolve around you, but it desperately needs you