First, let me tell you the kids at Harris-Lake Park are pretty special.
I say this because it was my job to pick up some holiday-inspired writing assignments from the H-LP elementary earlier this month, so the Dickinson County News could publish some of the New Year's wishes from some of our youngest people. It was just a couple of small stacks held together by a couple of paper clips, but I've got to say I was pretty impressed by some of the sentiments expressed by the young Wolves at H-LP.
Now, to be clear, they're still kids. There were still wishes for snowmobiles and Pokemon cards – lots and lots of Pokemon cards (dear lord, I can't believe those are still a thing kids enjoy). But there were also some who set the bar a little higher for their wishes – not with personal gain, but wide-reaching or even global hopes.
One young person wanted to visit New Orleans again to help pick up trash, some wished for an end to war, and a surprising number of them wished the social ill that we call bullying would come to a sudden halt.
They've been taught well. Be it through their parents, teachers, friends, neighbors or simply the message they're getting from the community at large, (and let's be honest it's all of the above) they know what's really going to change our world for the better. And that's great.
So let's not stand in their way.
We've set them on this path to better the world, and that means the world is going to change. Things can't stay the same if they're going to get better. It seems to be every generations curse to look back from the podium of seniority and berate "the young people" because they don't understand the way things are done — how decisions should be made, what should be valued, what an acceptable cost is for progress.
But let's be honest again, we were those young people once.
We wanted to change the world. We wanted to make something better than what we experienced. We wanted to squeeze the dark out of the world by shining a light on it where ever we could. I'd like to think we all did that to varying degrees, but I also hate to think that once we let slip our teenage tenacity and dawn the mantel of experience we all too often forget betterment doesn't end with our own efforts.
So look to the future. Young people want to change the world for the better. More than that, they want to make changes that not only benefit themselves but wide swaths of humanity.
Knowing the northwest Iowa audience like I do, I expect our local students' wish to end bullying is much more palatable than say addressing climate change, immigration reform or stricter gun laws — things some young people closer to voting age would like to see.
Of course, some don't believe in climate change. I understand that. Some don't believe immigration reform will preserve a lawful society. I understand that. Some don't believe legislation can stunt rising gun violence. I understand that too.
But it wasn't all that long ago that many of us questioned whether bullying was really an issue worth addressing. It wasn't that long ago that many of us didn't understand how today's social school-scape has changed for the young person. It wasn't that long ago that we as a society generally accepted the term bullying was one to be taken seriously. We changed, and we're capable of doing it again.
Ironically though, we need the young people to spur that change, because we often lose steam as we trade in our high-tops for some sensible loafers. But the truth is, we can't honestly tell our young people to go out and change the world while simultaneously standing in their way to preserve the status quo.