Some Millennials make the most of YOLO

“That they might have joy” column by Jacki Wood

The results of the study didn’t really surprise me: today’s young people are selfish.

Millennials, or the Me Generation — those born after 1982 — are less interested in community issues, politics and the environment according to the March issue of Journal of Personality and Society Psychology.

Researchers surveyed nine million young adults and concluded they are “less likely to embrace community mindedness and are focusing more on money, image and fame.”

They see little of the world around them and engage in a variety of behaviors that accompany a YOLO (you only live once) attitude, taking risks in something they normally wouldn’t do, regardless of the consequences.

But earlier this month, after attending a Youth Cultural Celebration at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, I was reminded there are many Millennials out there doing good, giving of themselves and moving beyond the borders of this generalization.

The cultural celebration was part of several events leading up to the dedication of the new Mormon temple and included over 3,000 youth ages 12-18 from the greater Kansas City area. They came from as far away as Springfield, Branson and Joplin, Warrensburg, Topeka and Salina, KS, and from right here in Maryville as well.

My 13-year-old son chose to be a part of it, and while many hours were exhausted driving back and forth to rehearsals in Kansas City and practicing songs and dances each week at our local church building, it was truly a blessing for him and for us.

I’m not sure what I expected as we entered the auditorium that evening, but it definitely wasn’t what was presented.

Like I said, over 3,000 youth participated in the event, so just the sheer number of people involved was quite ridiculous. And what I experienced was simply inspiring.

The celebration began with those thousands of youth crammed across the auditorium floor, around the walkways and even up the stairs. They were everywhere. A story of the area’s history accompanied them on the jumbotron throughout the event.

Then smaller groups performed individual pieces. And by smaller, I still mean hundreds of kids singing and dancing together. They shared music and dance from other cultures that were associated with where they came from.

A young Bluegrass band from Branson played alongside dancers from the Olathe, Salina and Topeka areas.

Teens from Kansas City, Liberty and Platte City danced the Charleston (including my son…it was so cute). A smaller subgroup performed “Basketball Rhythm” complete with dribbling basketballs, shooting hoops and even dunks in a very High School Musical-esque performance.

Those from the Springfield area performed a patriotic number as well as George Strait’s hit song, “Heartland.”

Youth from Independence, where there’s a large Polynesian community, performed several island dances (so cool). Kids from Lenexa shared their Hispanic heritage and those from the Warrensburg area did a European medley.

I was surprised that the evening included a little bit of everything including a techno number, a fun children’s song and even Cotton-Eyed Joe.

But the most touching aspect of the night, for me, came when the youth from Joplin took center stage. A year since the devastating tornado hit their community, the youth performed “Rise Up,” a tribute about all of the helping hands who volunteered and assisted in the rebuilding, which continues today.

As I watched these young people literally raise up a building frame there on the auditorium floor, I realized these very teenagers lost their church building, their high school, and probably some even lost their homes and loved ones.

What amazing stories of faith and courage.

And as they paid tribute to those who had flocked from all over the country to help them rebuild their lives, I also realized how many volunteers, both young and old, from Baby Boomers to Millennials, traveled from right here in Nodaway County to selflessly give of themselves.

The crowd gave them a standing ovation, and deservedly so, as tears streamed down their cheeks (and ours) in a very emotional number.

So back to this study… I’m sure the results about Millennials were right on. But I also know there are so many out there who are breaking the status quo.

I love the quote from Elaine Dalton, who said: “Don’t let the low standards and expectations of the world and others cause you to aim beneath your nobility and ability — dream big!”

It’s great to see so many youth changing the “you only live once so enjoy it while you can” definition of YOLO to the “you only live once so make the most of it” YOLO.

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