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I believe in our youth: Richard Paterson

By Richard Paterson

Our young people are terrific people. I 100% believe this. They are of premium quality.

 I lived in Surfers Paradise for seven years in a resort. So every year, we had an influx of schoolies stay in “our world”. And I can honestly say they were superb individually and collectively. Their manners were superb, and their behaviour was excellent. And the same went for the vast majority of visitors celebrating the end of their school lives. Yes, there were some “loose cannons” whose behaviour was suboptimal. However, I focused on the well-behaved majority.

 You see, we get to choose what we focus on. And as Robin Sharma articulates beautifully, “What we focus on grows….”

 Unfortunately, the media paints a savage picture of Schoolies on the Gold Coast. They highlight a few isolated incidents that are not ideal. But considering the 10,000s of excited, energised young people in the precinct for the duration of Schoolies, the behaviour is exceptional.

 We had large numbers of kids stay in our resort each year. And there was not one unsavoury incident even once. Quite the contrary. We, in fact, had many kids hang out in our apartment, and they were delightful kids without exception. So much so that I am still in contact with some from as long as five years ago and have followed them on their journeys into their vocational lives. It is an honor to have been allowed to accompany them on such pivotal periods of their lives.

 I found it fascinating how magnetised these kids were to conversations about their life aspirations and dreams for the future. Maybe this is actually why they chose to hang around our apartment. Perhaps our young people are elevated to their best selves when we older folks take an interest in them and activate their appetites for the future rather than dampening their enthusiasm with doom and gloom.

 But without exception, I have found that they all desire to cast a vision of their future and dream out loud. They all have a mustard seed of aspiration that is desperately awaiting germination in their hearts. How about we older farts water and fertilise those seeds? Then we can uncover the individual blessing each young person has the potential to evolve into.

 One amazing repeated action I observed when my precious boy was about 10. When we were swimming in the pool, if Schoolies were also using the pool, and one of them swore in my son’s presence, their peers would chastise the offender, who ALWAYS apologised. The self-regulation was staggering. I was so impressed, and this was repeated year in and year out.

 OK, I am 58 and no spring chicken. I don’t pretend to be a trendy, hip youth worker. But I care about our young people, and I believe in them. I want to be a part of their cheer squad. They have so much to deliver, and it’s up to those of us, further down the track, to show belief and commitment to them.

 I spent a few months in Sydney without a car, so I used public transport. Again, I was overwhelmed with the high standard of behaviour and manners exhibited by the school kids getting on and off buses. They were so courteous to the drivers, most of the time. Greeting the driver on embarking and thanking them on disembarking. I was seriously impressed.

 Again though, I choose to focus on this stuff. So hence, I have a huge heart of optimism about the future of our young people. I am impressed, and I honour them.

We get to choose our perception of the emerging generations.

I have made my decision. Have you?

Richard Paterson is "Passionately optimistic about the future of us"

Read More: Children and Optimism

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