Friday, March 14, 2014

Respect is Given Before it is Received

Respect is Given Before it is Received
The next time someone tells me that kids today don't have any values. Or that they are little monsters. Or that they have no respect. I'll tell them how wonderful the groups of kids I speak to are.

Kids today have to grow up exposed to stuff people my age never had to.

Bullying existed when I was a kid. And I was bullied a fair amount of time myself. Teasing, rumours, behind-your-back-whispers and judging were all done in person. That was bad enough.

But I never once had to deal with bullying in an online environment where anonymity can spur some of the most vile comments. What one must keep in mind is that not all kids post hateful garbage.

Kids today are exposed to up-to-the-minute news, just like us adults. They aren't shielded by any of it, in part because of online access. And then we ask ourselves why they're desensitized.

Kids today often times have to deal with what used to be strictly grown-up problems, sometimes without the benefit of understanding or compassionate adults. In many cases, they're dealing with these problems alone, without adequate knowledge or experience when their brains are not yet fully developed.

Kids today needs us adults and elders more than ever! And we need them!

I had the privilege of speaking to a group of about 600 high school students yesterday in Merritt, BC. Grades 8 through 12.

I shared my story of being sexually assaulted at knife point by someone I had just met when I was 14 years old.

I spoke to them about sexual assault, consent, healthy and unhealthy relationships, including the consequences of sexting and trusting someone who hasn't earned that level of trust.

My presentation was almost an hour long. These kids sat on metal bleachers or on the gymnasium floor while I shared what I was there to share. Kudos to them for sitting more or less still during all that time!

I used proper terms like penis, vagina and anus. There was very little giggling, which one can expect. Especially from the younger ones in the group. Heck, I did some giggling myself some years back during guidance class when shown a film about the "birds and the bees". How can I possibly judge them?

The Merritt Secondary School students treated me with courtesy and respect. The kids were engaged and held the room as I shared a very personal story from a very difficult time in my life. And they listened. They listened intently.

I'm never surprised by the level of respect I get when addressing kids today. Though I'm always impressed. It gives me so much hope for the future.

But that respect starts with me.

If I'm disingenuous or disrespectful toward them, how can I expect these kids to show me any respect. After all, respect is earned. Not demanded.

I was reminded last night by one of my dear aunts that the younger generation respects when someone "tells it like it really is".

When we reach out to kids and talk to them in an authentic way, with respect, then we get the golden opportunity to see just how wonderful they really are.

A heartfelt shout out to all the wonderful students (and staff--it takes respectful people in staff positions to model respectful behaviour) of Merritt Secondary School in Merritt BC Canada. You all help me love what I do even more!
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