Compassion almost always starts at home.
“The most important thing you as a parent can do is to let your children know how much it means to you that they behave with kindness and responsibility,” says the American Psychological Association.
The group also notes that one study “found that teenagers who were involved in helping others felt very positive about their lives and had high hopes for their own futures.”
For all the worry and head-shaking about today’s youth, they are, in many instances, incredibly caring and compassionate people who think first of others, not themselves.
We rounded up a few standout examples of the selflessness — and in some cases downright heroism — of today’s teens.
Sacrificing for Others: Last May, after years of fundraising and saving, the senior class at New Hampshire’s Profile High School finally had enough money for a four-day senior trip to the Rydin’ Hi Ranch in the Adirondacks. Then, their beloved principal revealed she had a rare and aggressive form of cancer. That’s when the teens’ plans for fun and relaxation abruptly changed. The senior class unanimously decided to donate their hard-earned savings to their principal’s care, leaving her grateful and for a moment, speechless.
“She’s just very caring, very selfless, and we wanted to be selfless, too,” said class president Christopher Sirois, noting to a local television station that Varshaw has a connection to every student at the high school. “She has given so much to us that we just wanted to give back.”
Rushing Into Harm’s Way: High school senior Caleb Martin from Harpeth, Tennessee, was driving home from his job at McDonald’s last January when he came upon an emergency. Without a thought for his own safety, he jumped into action. He saw a car veer toward someone who was standing in the road.
“I thought it was a drunk driver at first, but then I saw him starting to swerve toward the woman in the road and pin her up against the guard rail. The first thing I thought is how I could help her,” Martin said.
It turned out that Jenna Newman, 28, had been shot multiple times by her boyfriend, who was in the act of trying to run her over with his car. Martin drove between Newman and the gunman, honking his horn until the assailant finally drove away. He called 911 and stayed with the young woman until help arrived.
The courageous teen said, “I think I did the right thing that anyone would have done.”
“The first thing I thought was, ‘Am I gonna die?’ But I thought ‘she might die,’ and it’s not about me, it’s about her,” he told The Tennessean newspaper.
Some time later, Martin was asked to cut the ribbon at a new domestic violence shelter in the area. He said he was “honored” to be asked.
Risking Life for a Neighbor: Two stepbrothers jumped into action in Cherow, South Carolina, last June when a transformer in their neighborhood blew and a house on their street suddenly erupted into flames. Jimmy Brown, 16, and his stepbrother Logan Campbell, 17, kicked down the door and ran into the burning house to save 89-year-old Pearl Mabrey from the smoke and flames.
Mabrey was unaware of the flames outside her bedroom door. The boys carried the startled woman outside on their shoulders.
“She was like a grandmother to us growing up, always feeding us ice cream and fried chicken. We wanted to take care of her and make sure she was okay,” Brown told People.
“It’s pretty great that we were able to save her in time. That’s all I was worried about was getting her out,” Campbell told a local news outlet.
Giving Up a Dream for Another: Zach Hougland of Davis County, Iowa, had just finished first in his high school track meet in October, winning his first district championship and qualifying for states, when he looked back as he jogged away from the finish line. He saw an opponent in trouble. Mediapolis senior Garret Hinson was on the ground in distress about 150 meters short of the finish line. His legs and back had given out, and he was crawling on all fours toward the finish.
“Is anyone going to help him?” Hougland shouted.
No answer came, so Hougland sprinted into action, re-crossing the finish line and running to Hinson’s side. He helped his opponent to his feet and guided him for a few steps — then encouraged him toward the finish line.
The consequences of his heroics? Both Hoagland and Hinson were disqualified from the race by meet officials due to a standing national rule about aiding another runner, with senior Hougland losing his first-place finish.
On the team bus after the match, Hougland’s coach Josh Husted asked him if he would do the same thing over again, if he knew the consequences.
“Absolutely,” the runner replied, the Des Moines Register reported.
Teens brought up in households with strong values and good role models have the best chance of themselves becoming good role models. We’re a stronger nation with a stronger — and kinder — youth population. It’s a worthy goal in parenting.