This week I walked into a community store and found myself standing behind a young man not nearly as contemplative as the young Black man pictured here (above). This young man had his hands hanging down well below his hips, underwear showing (of course), earrings in both ears, the standard issue white t-shirt, shoes untied. The only problem here was that in front of those untied shoes was a baby stroller, and in that stroller was a newborn baby. And as I looked up, there was the mother. Equally dejected and with a look on her face that silently screamed -- "how exactly did I get here?" Neither one could have been much more than 18 years old.
How she 'got' there, was laying down with a supposedly cool young man with in all probability, no high school diploma, no job, no contraception (thus, now with a newborn baby in hand, and at foot), and as a result of all of this ~ even less hope of a future in a high earning job occupation.
I was even more appalled when I saw what they were purchasing, at 1pm in the afternoon. Their shopping cart was full of candy, carbonated soda, bags of chips and chewing gum. And when I say, not one thing in that basket was healthy or even edible for that child, I mean not single thing. So, what was the child to eat for lunch, dinner, or for the week, I wondered? It made me want to take the child off their hands and feed her myself, but that of course, for a thousand reasons, I cannot do. I cannot do it for this child, and more hurtful to me, I cannot do it for what appears to be an entire generation in trouble.
This is nothing more than children, having children. The blind leading the blind, and recently born. A train wreck of a future for all waiting to happen.
This breaks my heart because for so many reasons.
Let's start with the fact that it is such a common occurrence today that there is now at least one TELEVISION SERIES ~ which focuses on nothing other than the stories and ongoing heartache of teenage mothers and fathers. Let me correct myself, I meant to say teenagers having children, while they are children themselves.
And this is not a 'black' nor a minority thing, as you can find heartbreaking examples of this drama literally all across our nation, and from black and brown urban to white rural.
We have a nation of young people -- an entire generation -- who are increasingly young, lost and without hope. And the most dangerous person in the world is a person without hope.
This is not the problem of our youth, it is the problem of our society, of the PARENTS of these kids, and increasingly of a nation with virtues and values that seem unhinged from reality, and adrift.
America is a great nation, but we cannot take her greatness for granted. And that means we must start with not writing off not one young person.
To quote my friend and partner Jim Clifton, chairman and CEO of Gallup, "our youth are the bench strength for the playoff game of the rest of our lives."
I agree. Let's go, restoring hope one lost young person at a time.
John Hope Bryant is an entrepreneur, author, advisor, and one of the nation's most recognized empowerment leader. He is the founder, chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE and Bryant Group Companies, The Inc. Magazine/CEO READ bestselling business author of LOVE LEADERSHIP: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World (Jossey-Bass), the only African-American bestselling business author in America, and is chairman of the Subcommittee for the Under-Served and Community Empowerment for the U.S. President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability, for President Barack Obama. Mr. Bryant is the co-founder of the Gallup-HOPE Index, the only national research poll on youth financial dignity and youth economic energy in the U.S.