Investing in the Future

Last night Dan was on night shift. I was here, ready to relax with my dog, a bag of pistachios, a glass of wine and a bit of classic Tom Cruise. Then, I heard the unmistakable sound of teen giggles and realized that our granddaughter, Genie, and her friends were bounding down the walk and about to invade. So much for the wine. I really did not mind. I love to see any of the grandkids and their friends. Soon they were inside, shedding jackets and winter boots.

We all got comfortable and they started telling me about their week.   They had semester final exams. Some fared better than others, but they were all ready to accept the grades they received.  They talked about their friends.  A little drama, but nothing out of the ordinary.  Then they talked about work.  They all work at Superstore.  They all work front end, with Genie having the additional responsibility of being a supervisor.

It is really funny hearing Genie and her friends talk about work. They do not complain about work. They do not complain about their bosses, their co-workers or the work they have to do . They do not complain about the personal sacrifices they make for their work – the early morning shifts, the late evening shifts or the time with friends and family that they miss. They do not complain about their wages.

For the most part, Genie and her friends talk about their customers. Mostly they talk about the customers who made their shifts better. They talk about customers who were super happy or particularly friendly. They talk about any compliments they received and any genuine appreciation they experienced. They talk about the customers they saw who were just extra nice and considerate to those around them. These customers make their shifts memorable.

Of course there are the customers who make their shifts more difficult and those get mentioned as well. They are the customers who are miserable before they ever approach the cashier or the service counter or the ones who are upset by a store issue and decide to take it out on someone who is trying to help them. There are the customers who will disrespect Genie and her friends simply because of their youth or make inappropriate remarks and suggestions because of their gender. Others will be disrespectful and rude simply because they feel superior to cashiers, price checkers and fellow shoppers.

These young people take their jobs really seriously. They take positive and negative interactions really seriously. They truly want to help people to have a positive experience at Superstore. They are excited about taking one of their first major steps to being responsible adults and they want to get it right.

Genie and her friends are not that unique as young employees go. This week, it would be really nice if we could all try a bit harder to notice the young employees we encounter. An extra smile and a kind word will really make their day. It will also encourage them to hold onto that work ethic and attitude – through this job and those that will follow. In the long run, it will be an investment in the future – ours and definitely theirs.

National Youth Confidence Day

Today is National Youth Confidence Day. This is a USA national day but since we live within a couple of hours from the USA border, I felt qualified to weigh in.

There are two main ways that are recommended for marking this day. For me, the first is easy – acknowledge young people and their accomplishments, talents and strengths. I’ve got this!

I have spent a lot of time with a lot of young people and for the most part I am impressed. Young people get smarter all the time. It is not just their natural comfort level with technology. Most young people are born with an electronic gaming system in one hand and a cell phone in the other. It would be strange if they were not more comfortable with technology than those of us who predate fax machines and calculators. It isn’t even the extent of their ‘knowledge’. They have been connected to the internet from day one. They have access to virtually all of the information on the planet, they cannot help but being informed. It is their comprehension and capability level that I find amazing. Acknowledging youth accomplishments is something I do regularly, not only on National Youth Confidence Day.

The second way that we are encouraged to observe National Youth Confidence Day is by mentoring, advising and teaching our youth. With this I have a problems.

1) I am a baby boomer – one of the later ones but still of that generation. We destroyed the environment, we destroyed the economy, we attended racially motivated costume parties and any number of horrible things that we had no idea were evil at the time – like serving jellied salads or wearing polyester pant suits. The bottom line is, nobody wants our advice .

2) Youth today (ie anyone under fifty) have no concept of what confidence is. They live in a world of ‘fake it til you make it’. We were taught virtues as a means of strength. Now they are looked on as weakness. Respect and gratitude are to be avoided at all cost – especially when it comes to acknowledging anything positive coming from the dreaded ‘Baby Boomer’. Which makes mentoring or advising pretty difficult from where I sit.

Yong people can choose to ignore the advice and education of their teachers, parents, grandparents co-workers but why would you want to throw away decades of trial and error, failures and success? That I do not understand. I would happily offer anyone the benefit of my experience and the wisdom I have accumulated over the years. There are a few areas I could be of some assistance:

Child-bearing and Rearing. Been there, done that X3. They are all pushing forty from one side or the other and still have all of their fingers, toes and most of their hair. They all work, raise families and contribute to society. I am pretty sure I got something right.

Grand-parenting. I have nine, close to perfect, grandchildren. Grandparenting is pretty much a refresher course on child rearing but more fun. Plus I learned how to work a five point harness. (Which comes in handy if you ever have small children or the need to wear a high viz vest)

Health. Have destroyed it with years of smoking, salt and sugar. Have clawed my way back with healthy living – diet, exercise and vitamin B12.

Relationships. One eighteen year un-holy matrimony that thankfully ended and one twenty year marriage that I appreciate every single day.

Loss and grief. I lost my beloved father after supporting him and my mother through his four year, hellish experience with cancer of the sinuses, at the worst of my marriage from hell, days before Christmas. As I climbed the hospital stairs to clean out his room, the cathedral bells stopped playing Christmas carols to toll the bells for his death. The town and cathedral were decked out with Christmas flowers and decorations. I survived his funeral, Christmas and decades of December PTSD.

Responsibility. I learned responsibility from my parents, from volunteering as a teenage candystriper, from decades of parenting and working, from taking care of my aging mother and father-in-law.

Work. I have worked part-time, full-time and double time. I have worked in a hospital, a donut shop, as an office administration and in sales. I have always been competent and appreciated as work goes. I have worked in the construction industry for 25 years. I work for a smaller company, selling construction specialty products – hospital curtains and tracks, operable partitions, wall protection, security grilles, entrance matting and the like. I am very good at it. There are 7 of us including my boss. This year, I have been solely responsible for easily two thirds of the sales of the company – from pricing, to ordering, to delivering, to billing. 😊

If you are a struggling youth, I would be happy to advise and encourage you. For a lot of the challenges you will face, I have been there and I know what worked or did not work for me. I can give you a few words of wisdom or be the candle at the end of your tunnel. But, you have to want it, you have to respect it and you gave to appreciate it. It just doesn’t work otherwise. 👍