Surprising Observations in Today’s Youth

While out running errands with my kids tonight we stopped to pick up dinner on the way home. My daughter stayed in the car while my son and I went in to place and wait on our order. We made our selections, paid, and then sat in the two chairs beside the restaurant doors.

While waiting, T-Bone and I chatted about his day at school. As all good moms do so well I was only listening with half a mind while I observed the few patrons of the restaurant. Suddenly, my son jumps out of his chair and heads out the front door! I turn my head to see what he is doing – maybe his sister needs help and he saw her through the window? No, he is holding the door for a woman who is struggling with the two front doors and her walker. I hear her say how wonderful he is as she thanks him for holding the doors for her.

My son and daughter both have always had the best manners. I can’t count how many times they have surprised adults (even me!) by their manners; saying thank you without ever needing prompting (every meal I make or purchase they tell me thank you –, helping others with doors and packages that need carrying, and when introduced to someone new they initiate the hand shake to the adult! (This has generated the most amazed impression with people and I continue to hear how impressed and surpised the person was with my children’s incredible behavior, manners, and maturity. Wouldn’t you be awed and impressed when an 11 year old girl offers you a handshake?)

So to me, T-Bone jumping up and helping with the doors was simply as-usual behavior. To the woman he helped he was a true gentleman who treated her with respect and the honor she probably hasn’t felt from kids in a long time. I am proud of my children and their maturity. They have incredible hearts and always seem to do the right thing by others. I did nothing to “teach” them this behavior. I didn’t drill it in to them, I didn’t lecture them on their duty to society or humanity; it’s simply who they are. When I took T-Bone and his cousin to a concert downtown we passed a homeless teenage girl on the way into the concert. Three hours later on the way back to our car she was still in the same spot. T-Bone asked me if he could give her his left-over money from the concert. He gave her the $10 he had in his pocket, and his cousin did the same. We had never before frequented areas of downtown where the homeless were so visible or so close, so my children have never seen what I would do in this situation. So again I marvel at their good hearts – they are not mimicking an observed behavior, they are acting on instincts of their own, listening to their inner voice that is guiding them in doing what is right towards others versus what is right by them alone.

T-Bone sat back down next to me after helping the woman through the doors. A moment later a young man in a 2013 letterman jacket entered the restaurant. At first he appeared to be another customer. He walked along the buffet, looking at the food as if deciding between ordering off the menu or partaking of the buffet tonight. Then I watched as he reached into the buffet. My first thought was, “Wow, I can’t believe he’s going to take something with his fingers out from under the glass hood and eat it before paying or ordering!” But I was wrong. My mouth dropped open as his fingers, instead, closed around the tongs and set them in the right spot. He then moved down the buffet, picked up a randomly placed bowl, looked at the inside and outside to see if it was clean or dirty, and then deciding it was clean placed it on the stack of bowls. Next he picked up a serving spoon and stirred one of the dishes. Only then did he turn to an empty booth in the corner, take off his jacket and sit down. When a host came out of the kitchen he immediately jumped up and greeted his friend and (now I can tell) co-worker. I was still watching in astonishment. Having worked with several teenagers over the years at my job I was blown away by the obvious pride this young man took in his place of employment. No one was watching him when he “cleaned up” the buffet – he simply saw what needed to be done and he did it. He wasn’t ordered to do it, wasn’t given any directions, he wasn’t even on duty at the time of doing it – he just did what was right. It was so refereshing to observe! Especially after my own experiences with teenage workers who did nothing until told, never took initiative, and asked to leave earlier every day that went by; in a nutshell, teenagers who were ungrateful for the first-time job opportunity they were given, a situation where they should have done everything to learn and improve and impress and appreciate the opportunity they were given.

Before leaving I made sure to tell the owner of the restaurant how impressed I was with the young man. The smile that spread across his face was beautiful. He said he was very grateful to have him working there. I agreed and turned to go.


I turned back.

“When your son is older and is looking for his first job, please have him try here. I was impressed with him, too.”

Not all young adults are as self-centered and apathetic (or deranged and psycho) as those the news highlights and portrays. Maybe if we encourage the manners and behaviors we hope they possess we will actually observe these manners and behaviors in action. Maybe then we won’t be so surprised when we see such behavior in action – but we will always appreciate it when we do, won’t we?


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