I had the chance to spend the weekend with a teenage relative. I'm not used to being around kids, so while I do love him, I'm not in my comfort zone when I spend extended periods around them. I don't enjoy playing the role of friend and enforcer at the same time. Since I am not, nor do I have any desire to be, a parent, I always feel a bit put upon when I have to interact with kids of any age for an extended period.
My relative, is a vibrant and smart young man of fourteen years. He is pretty seriously accomplished in the arts. He also is good at activities like skateboarding. He likes adults (a rarity for teens I'm told), and is pretty happy spending time with them as long as he gets to do some things he likes as well (a fair trade).
What struck me, however, as he and I spent a lot of time together talking and hanging out, was that he's not a reader, and he seems to lack a lot of the empathy that my friends and I had at his age. I know, I know... it is shocking that a teenager would be more interested in gaming and pop culture than in literature and social activism. But it did strike me as odd, because there seemed to be no interest at all in either of the two.
And now I'll write the famous five words: When I was his age my friends and I read a lot and cared a great deal about the world around us. We were a bit progressive, and we read to the blind, volunteered for political campaigns, and wrote letters for Amnesty International. I even recall going to bed each night and praying for the American hostages in Iran.
As I spent time with my relative, I tried to think of another teenage son or daughter of any of my friends who had ever expressed interest in the greater good of the world around them, and sadly, I couldn't. I do know that there must be kids who care out there, but I am worried that their numbers may be fewer than in past generations. I hope I'm wrong.
I did, ultimately, enjoy the weekend. My relative is bright and funny. We had some good conversations about right and wrong (none of which stuck, I'm sure). And I was able to convince him to eat relatively well. I will be seeing more of him this Summer, and I'm glad for that. But I have been struggling with a deeper concern that a sense of connectedness to, and an empathy for the world around us and the people in it are sorely lacking in his outlook. And it makes a bit sad.
Now, something that makes me happy...
My cul-de-sac has a workout group. I didn't know about it until late in the day a week ago. Each Tuesday and Thursday, a group of neighbors meets on the soccer field at 6 a.m. and does a 45 minute workout overseen by a physical therapist who used to be a Pilates instructor. Last Tuesday I showed up thinking that the workout wouldn't be all that difficult. After all, I run every day, play a lot of tennis, and bike a couple of times a week as well. Wow was I wrong. The workout is amazing. I went both days it was offered, and left after each workout soaked in sweat and feeling queasy from exertion.
A couple of friends and I had been discussing how difficult it was to get a core workout. I am happy to report that I no longer have that problem. I have a minor hip issue this week that may prevent me from doing the workout, but I will certainly be back. The workouts fit in so nicely with my routine, that adding them is almost seamless.
Finally: The most interesting animal I saw on a run in the past week was a skunk (a very large skunk) frolicking in a field at 6 a.m. last Wednesday.
Have a great week.