Statisticts Show that Only 20% of Youth Today AREN'T Blobs
One group of interviews and surveys discovered that only 20% of people age 12-22 expressed a clear vision of where they want to go in life, what they want to accomplish, and why.
(Of course, you might say that's not surprising for a 12-year-old. But for a high school graduate? Or a college graduate?)
60% expressed vague aspirations and may have dabbled in somewhat purposeful activities, but mostly lacked commitment to any goals and lacked realistic plans for achieving their admittedly vague aspirations.
The remaining 20% expressed no aspirations at all, and some even said they saw no point in acquiring any aspirations.
This is the upcoming generation.
A Hira survey of college students during the years 2000-2006 showed that nearly 60% of graduates moved back home after college and of these, around half remained at home for a year.
What did the remaining 40% do?
Dropped out of college, hopped from job to job, or ended up underemployed.
Barker also notes from the book that young people today suffer a lot more anxiety and depression.
Even after college, young people aren't joining the adult world. (They used to do this after high school, or even before.)
As Barker puts it, "They're delaying being a spouse, a parent, a citizen or a worker."
He also observes:
Many young people today are drifting, full of self-doubt and anxiety.
And, ironically, it's often the kids with straight A's who are the most gravely afflicted.
This is not the happy life their parents wished for them; it's a countdown clock to a midlife crisis.
Or a midlife crisis that starts early – and never ends.
This article did not even touch on what they're doing with their time (surfing, watching videos, shows and movies, video games, hefker behavior, etc.).
Nor did it touch on the increasingly degenerate value system embraced by the younger generation today.
Not only is this the environment young frum people are growing up in (although some communities are more insulated than others), but this is the pool from which kiruv will need to draw its upcoming generation.
Now, some people will rise to the occasion.
Some people, once presented with a life rife with meaning will leap onto that train and go right for the engine. It's what they were always waiting for, but didn't know it.
Others will find latent good qualities awakening.
For example, once they find themselves in a community focused on chessed, they find happiness & fulfillment in overcoming their previous narcissism and shiftlessness—negative qualities which they adopted out of habit and lack of awareness, but are able to shed to a certain extent, or maybe even to a large extent.
But if they've lived their entire life with either no aspirations or only vague ones, and they have been surrounded by peers of the same, plus whoever their parents are (coddling? helicoptering?), how on earth are you supposed to start talking to them about one of the major goals of Judaism: aspiration.
Ultimately, everything we live for is Olam Haba.
That's an aspiration.
Becoming a baal middot, or just improving oneself a little—these are aspirations.
Living for others, becoming a good parent or spouse, working on emunah, or even just getting ready for Shabbos...if they've lived life not wanting to aspire to goals, if they've been comfortable living without a purpose, then how can anyone talk to them about Torah ideals?
How can you speak their language, which is so far from Torah?
It's not impossible, but the mentality and values being programmed into people today means that people are going to be in for a very hard journey because they're starting from such a low point.
They have so much more to climb.
The Tougher the Climb, the More Credit You Get for Trying
The harder something is, the more credit you get for trying.
Let's say you have a little hill before you. You're in great condition and you managed to sprint up to the top of the hill without breaking a sweat.
You wave your arms from on top of the hill. Yay, you're a winner! You made it to the top!
Now let's say you have a giant mountain of rock before you; it's so high, you can't even see the top.
You have no experience in rock-climbing or mountain-climbing.
In fact, you've barely gone on a simple hike through the woods because you preferred watching vlogs and playing video games until now.
So you're also really out of shape.
Someone hands you the rock-climbing gear, and encourages you to get moving.
Everyone else around you was also offered the gear and the opportunity to start climbing, but only you and a handful of others decided to take on the challenge.
It's taking you forever to make your way up, you keep stumbling and falling and bruising yourself because you have no clue what you're doing.
To make matters worse, the people who rejected the climb keep sending you voice messages that you are making a big mistake, that your new direction show you lack compassion and goodness, that you're not making the right decision, and that there is no point in climbing the mountain, and that there's no real reward for reaching the top (and it's not worth it anyway because look at how bruised & clumsy you are, so why not skim back down to the bottom and enjoy yourself once more?).
They send you links to TV documentaries and books, all explaining why what you are doing is so meaningless and harmful.
To make these even more confusing, the people who are in great shape and experienced rock-climbers (they were trained by their community and parents since they could walk, and they are cheered on as they climb upward) and are using state-of-the-art gear are held up as the example you are supposed to follow. Look at their speed and skill! Look at their great confidence!
Then there are people who do not have to actually climb, but are being hoisted on pulleys up to the top. They are also lauded for their success and for making it all look so easy.
In comparison, you are not looking so good.
Not only are you not being lauded (after all, you're not looking so successful), you might face a lot of criticism for all that you're doing wrong.
You get advice about how to use a piece of climbing equipment that you don't even have.
Or they tell you to do things that only a much stronger or more experienced climber can do.
When you point out that you do not have any such climbing equipment or strength or skill, you are rebuked for having a bad attitude, not trying hard enough, or lacking in emunah.
Fortunately, some of the expert climbers lower themselves to your level and give you a hand. They patiently share their skills and knowledge with you.
Some even exchange gear with you, allowing you to use the state-of-the-art equipment while their skill and experience allows them to make do with your regular gear given to you as a chessed when you first started.
But regardless of your gear or any help you receive along the way, your climb is steeper, higher, and more difficult than normal.
And it shows.
But the question really is: How is Hashem looking at you?
Does Hashem see a bruised, banged-up failure?
Or does He see a diamond in formation?
In other words, are those scratches and fractures...
...or are they the formation of angles & facets cut to catch dazzling light?
Hashem is Looking for YOU
You may not be happy with yourself. Others may not be happy with you.
But Hashem is likely VERY happy with you.
And Hashem is all that matters.
What does it say to Hashem that you are willing to suffer humiliation and criticism, bruising, and fail after fail after fail...all to simply fulfill what He told you to do...all to simply reach Him?
THAT'S dedication. That's commitment.
Even if you're not doing it cheerfully, it still a very big commitment on your part.
Because everything is against you.
You don't have the keilim.
And the people below you are trying to drag you back down.
And the people above you aren't understanding where you're really holding.
And that mountain is SOOOO high.
The top seems completely unrealistic.
Yet you're doing it.
As Rav Avigdor Miller once mentioned, Tehillim 14:2 tells us that Hashem is seeking those who are seeking Him.
And that means you.
Because you are seeking Him against all odds, you are causing Hashem to hone in on YOU.
And that's a really good thing.