Teenagers Need You!

Arkansas 4H

I don’t wear skinny jeans.  If I did wear skinny jeans, the jeans could no longer be called skinny.  I wear orthopedic shoes too.  You know the kind of shoes your grandma wore?  Yes.  I love those shoes.  I embrace those shoes.  Those shoes keep my 55-year-old feet happy.  And when a woman’s feet are happy, the sun shines brightly all over the world.

The truth?  I wasn’t cool even when I was sixteen.  I was awkward.  Painfully awkward.  Of course, now I’m thankful for that teenage awkwardness because I learned so many things that help me as a speaker and a writer.  But at the time, I remember thinking I couldn’t wait to be free from the whole teenage scene.   I would happily be a grown-up and never look back.

So you can imagine my shock a few years ago when people started to ask me to speak at events targeted at teenagers.  My first thought was, “Are you kidding?  Absolutely not.  I am NOT the right speaker for teenagers.  I don’t wear cool clothes.  I never went to prom.  I hate current pop music.   I refuse to use teenage lingo.  Oh, and I wear orthopedic shoes, remember?”  But by God’s grace, I didn’t say those things aloud.  I simply said, “Yes.”

I still remember that first event years ago.   I stood in front of 500 teenagers in Nashville and said, “I get it.  I’m not cool.  Let’s be honest.  I’m not even as cool as your mom.  I’m probably not as cool as your grandma.  I drove a ’73 Gremlin in high school.  Most of my high school classmates don’t remember my name because I was invisible back then.  Truthfully, being in front of you today kind of terrifies me.  But I’m here to tell you something important because I care about you.   The life inside these walls?  This teenage world?  Well, it’s not the real world.  Not at all.”  I pointed to the auditorium door and the crowd fell silent.  “The world out that door doesn’t care if you are ‘somebody’ in this high school.  Not one person outside that door cares if you were on every page of the yearbook or if you didn’t even show up for pictures.  They don’t.  That’s just the truth.”

I talked about the things that matter in life.   The things that never stop mattering.  Kindness.  Selflessness.  Elbow grease.  Humility.  Respect in guy/girl relationships.  I reminded those teenagers that their intelligence is a gift but it would never insure their success.  Not at all.  I’d rather hire a kid with average or below average intelligence who will work cheerfully than a smart kid who complains.  Whining makes young people (or adults) seem immature and ridiculous.  Yes, I told funny stories.  I tried to season my words with humor and humility.  But mostly?  Well, mostly, I just told them the truth.

We live in a world filled with adults trying to be “cool enough” to relate to teenagers.  But that’s completely backwards.  Teenagers don’t need lessons on how to be teenagers.  They need lessons on how to be grown-up.  They’re crying out for someone to love them enough to tell them the truth.  Trust me.  They won’t even notice your shoes.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. rclast
    Jun 20, 2019 @ 02:38:43

    This is terrific, as usual it’s spot-on. I love teenagers. I had three neighborhood kids in the yard yesterday. They politely asked to swim. I said yes! They were tween boys. They were polite and grateful.

    We talked about paying it forward.


  2. Mary Lee Grossner
    Jun 20, 2019 @ 05:05:11

    Lisa, how incredibly fabulous!! You got it spot on!! God has given you one of the most important gifts!! Hats off to you!! May God continue to bless you! 😊💕


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