Too many of our young people today are called “self-absorbed,” “lazy,” “undisciplined,” “living in the virtual world” — and much more.
But I have often found they are capable of nobility and selflessness when times call for it — and that they have a sincere concern for others deep within their hearts and minds.
This uplifting story below proves the point:
Rather than sleeping in on a snow day, a group of high school students got together at 4:30 a.m. so they could make sure that an elderly woman could get to her dialysis appointment.
Brian and Patrick Lanigan are both students at Parsippany High School in New Jersey. They also live next to an older woman who relies on ambulance transportation to bring her to her dialysis treatments.
Brian, who works as an EMT, had shoveled his neighbor’s driveway last week in order to make way for the ambulance — but then the weather forecast called for eight more inches of snow.
The night before the snowstorm, the brothers knew that they had to help their neighbor, but since Brian had work early in the morning, they knew they wouldn’t be able to clear the driveway before the ambulance arrived at 6 a.m. Patrick then pulled out his phone and started calling people on his contact list for help.
The next morning at 4:30 a.m., four of Patrick’s friends arrived with shovels in hand. Within thirty minutes, they had successfully cleared the driveway.” (source: Good News Network)
We often talk about “helping our neighbors” — the people who live down the block from us or in our neighborhood.
These kids put the words into practice. They knew this elderly woman was sick; they were aware of her regular dialysis appointments and were attentive to her needs, even if it meant showing up at 4:30 a.m. on a snow day.
These Parsippany teens are true snow angels. https://t.co/HW7evg42Xn
— New Jersey Family (@njfamilymag) March 8, 2019
Their act shows a selflessness and a thoughtfulness that many of our young people don’t get credit for these days but of which they are infinitely capable.
It’s often easier for many people in the media to focus on the negative — or on “crisis”-based stories.
But positive actions like these need to be praised, shared — and emulated.
A Connecticut business leader I know shared another heartwarming story recently.
One of the new neighbors on a suburban New York City block went around to knock on every door in his neighborhood with the following message: “Hi. I’m a new neighbor here in the subdivision and it came to my attention that Mrs. Smith” — not her real name — “is a 94-year-old-woman who is about to have major surgery in a few days. I would like to invite you over to my house to say a prayer for her. I’m not concerned about your particular religious background — I just thought it would be a nice thing for all of us to pray together for a neighbor in need.”
Most of the neighbors did show up. And many of them did not know each other, even though they’d been in that subdivision together for many years.
This powerful act of kindness brought them together. It was a deeply unifying and spiritual event.
St. Basil the Great reminds us, “What is the mark of love for your neighbor? Not to seek what is for your own benefit, but what is for the benefit of the one loved, both in body and soul.”
Just this past Saturday, a group of 40 local high school boys and girls gave up their Saturday evening to take part in a mission for the homeless in Washington, D.C.
They collected toiletries and food ahead of time at their schools, and were able to make 600 personalized bags to hand out to homeless people around Union Station.
Instead of attending a Saturday night party or enjoy some downtime, these young people sauntered in and around the train station on a cold night, handing out goodie bags and sharing their gift of time with homeless people they did not know.
Especially during this season of Lent, let’s look outside ourselves.
Let’s try to see reality through the merciful eyes of Christ — and allow Him to touch the hearts of others in our everyday lives, as these groups of young people all demonstrated.
Fr. Michael Sliney is a Catholic priest based in the New York City area and an adviser to the Lumen Institute, a professional business group.