A recent “Hi and Lois” comic strip shows Hi, the dad, dropping off his recyclables, pumping his own gas, using the self-checkout at the grocery store, stopping by an ATM machine and renting a movie using an automated machine. Later his teenage son comes home looking frazzled and announces “I cannot find a summer job! Where are all the jobs?!”
That’s a good question. Point taken.
As a five-year-old during the Great Depression, my dad sold gum on passenger trains to make money for his family. As a teen he hauled sacks of grain in a mill; he’s been a hard worker all his life and even though he’s pushing 80, he still repairs and restores cars and helps members of his family (just this week, he helped two different family members who were moving).
When my husband was a teen, he mowed his church’s acreage for free and cleaned buses for pay. By age 17, he had an engineering job that would become his occupation for many years. He’s always been a hard worker, has run two businesses and continues to work hard to take care of our family.
Ten years ago, my then-16-year-old son spent his summer working in a grocery store. It was a job he’d had for over a year; he would continue to work in several stores in that grocery chain throughout college. Today he has a good job for which he travels frequently and, because he’s in management, always puts in many hours.
You see the pattern here. Young men need to work. It helps them develop the work ethic they’ll need to support a family. But today, unemployment is very high among teens. In some areas it’s over 25%. Even those who do work are finding it hard to get more than 15 or 20 hours of work per week. We hope that this situation will change eventually, but what of our young men in the meantime? They’re at a crucial point in their development; if they can’t find work, it will be far too easy for them to sink into a stupor of gaming and partying as so many already do; others with more energy and nowhere to use it constructively may be easily lured into criminal activity out of boredom.
It’s crucial that we help our young men find work of any kind, paying or not. We can talk to our friends and neighbors to see who needs help around their homes and yards, or better yet, their businesses. Perhaps churches can mobilize their youth to work around the church grounds or in the community.
This is a nationwide problem; if we don’t get a handle on it, we’re going to have a generation of messed-up young men. That is not a comforting thought.