I would like to say thank you to the Railroad Street Youth Project for this honor and all that you do in inspiring young people to greatness. Today, I’ve been asked to speak to you about the importance of intergenerational relationships. Looking out I see a lot of young people here today, in particular some high school students. I’d like you to listen carefully to what about I am to say to you next: life is not a race. It’s not about going to the best college, getting the best grades, and getting the best job. Life is about having unique experiences that help change how you see the world and your perspective on life. My freshman year of high school I was in need of some change. Even though that was a short three years ago, I still look at that time and how much I’ve grown since. Entering high school was one of the scariest experiences of my life. It was a time when things actually finally mattered: your grades, who you went out with, who you’re friends were, and all that kabookey. I was getting caught up in the whirlwind of it all: I had to take the hardest classes and try to become friends with the “coolest” people. I was getting myself down and into a rut. I wasn’t happy with who I’d become. I yearned for some change in my life, something different. Something new. I got that chance when, by chance, my guidance counselor recommended I meet someone from Railroad Street and get involved in their mentoring program. I thought that it would go nowhere, but yearning for something new, I signed up and struck up a wonderful rapport with the women from Railroad Street.
When I met my mentor, Bobby, I knew I was in for a real treat. From the moment we met we clicked immediately. He just got who I was and who I wanted to be. Over these past three years, Bobby has been there for me through and through, giving me advice on things, helping me with opportunities, and always lending an ear when I needed to talk. I am not trying to imply, however, that I am not close with my parents or that they’re not in the picture all the time. If anything, I am rather close with my parents, but like every teen in America, there are things I’d rather not talk to them about. Personal things that an adult perspective can offer and that’s where Bobby would come in. Whenever there was something in my life that could use an adult’s perspective, Bobby was there. And what I’ve found is that perspective piece is the most important element to intergenerational relationships.
Having someone in your life who has more miles on their track than you do can change the way you see the world. It can make you rethink the most biggest of things and make them the pettiest. Having someone who’s been through more than you have is reassuring when you yourself are going though something. But most importantly, having someone in your life who is wiser than you, means that you learn to think in new ways. I once heard someone say people are just peoples. I think this applies most in high school. Everyone wants to get to the top. Everyone has something in their lives. But it’s about your ability to pause from the everyday and think about the person you are and who you want to become. Knowing someone who’s lived more (and I don’t mean that in a numbers sense) than you have and seen more than you have reminds to do that. And when you’re with that person, whether it be a coach, a coworker, a family friend, a relative, or a mentor, they serve as a living example of that, by sharing with you their experiences, and their wisdom. And you walk away a much better person. And you have a friend for the rest of your life.