Monday, June 20, 2011

6 things to know at 20-something...

A piece from the WORLD VISION ACTS blog written for college students...

Now that you’ve been around for about two decades, you know that what happens in high school isn’t the end of the world, that driving your parent’s old station wagon won’t really affect your social status, and that college homework is much harder than you thought it was going to be.

You’ve also been around long enough to know that meaningful friendships are the ones that last, that deciding your career path is an exhausting challenge, and that “growing up” and “living out your faith” is easier said than done.

Here are six things really worth taking seriously in your 20s.

1. Practice generosity. An easy way to think about generosity is to believe that it’s only for rich people. It’s only for people who have lots of spare change and too many clothes to fit in their drawers, for people who are 401K-secure and appear on TV shows like “Secret Millionaire.” But the fact is, generosity isn’t that.

Being generous doesn’t mean being rich. It means sharing what you have. In the same way you were taught to share your toys and goldfish crackers on the playground as a kid, you should also share your knowledge with your classmates, your wisdom with your younger siblings, your talents with the church, and your Top Ramen with your roommate.

2. Make it count. You know when they talk about the “glory” days? What they’re really talking about is right now. After all, 20ish can be one of the best, most fun times in your life. You can stay up ‘til three a.m. and eat Taco Bell every meal if you choose to. You can start a rock band (or just play “Rock Band”) and switch your fashion style with the season.

But let me tell you: there is nothing glorious about years of student loan repayments, no job, and no retained knowledge from your senior courses. What I’m saying is… being 20ish is not cheap. College is not cheap. So if you’re going to pay more money for school than you’ll probably make in your first five years out of college, then don’t waste it. Go to class. Get smart, and make it count.

3. Explore. When you were five, you walked across the street holding your mom’s hand. When you were fifteen, your dad nervously sat in the passenger’s seat as you took your first drive. But now that you’re 20ish, you’re more on your own than ever. Take this opportunity to explore and discover yourself, and explore again. In another 20 years from now, it might not be so easy.

Explore career paths and hobbies, travel destinations and volunteer opportunities, campus clubs and part-time jobs. Explore your likes and dislikes, your political and religious viewpoints. Maybe most importantly, explore your faith. Explore the reasons why you believe what you believe, and then stand up for them.

4. Don’t skip the rules for one night out. Being in college is one of the first times in your life that you are without ever-present parental control or your youth pastor’s moral supervision. You can do what you want when you want.

But just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Part of “growing up” is growing your ability to be able to discern the difference between right and wrong and when something isn’t worth it. Skipping the rules for [insert your own thought here] is one of those things that isn’t worth ruining your reputation over, being kicked out of school for, or compromising your moral integrity.

5. Making your parents proud still counts. This is one of those principles that’s way too easily ignored by young adults. It’s like the moment we get out of the house, and “on our own,” we think we’re invincible and that we’re only accountable to ourselves.

But we’re wrong. For most of us, at 20ish, our parents are still paying our cell phone bill and flying us home during Thanksgiving weekend. The truth is, our parents deserve much more of us. They deserve to be able to be proud of the daily decisions we are making. (And honoring your parents is a biblical mandate, too. “Honor your father and your mother…” –Exodus 20:12)

6. Dream big. Consider this: Every year, nearly one million people die because of malaria (Source: World Health Organization, Now consider this: We could be the generation that actually ends malaria. To me, that’s not just a possibility that we live with… it’s a responsibility we have to make this world a better place.

You don’t have to be rich or old or famous to make a difference. You can be 15 or 50 -- it doesn’t matter. All you need is a dream big enough to chase. Look at organizations like Invisible Children, Krochet Kids, and TOMS Shoes. They were all founded by young people who dreamed big and pursued their dream to make a difference.

Our world needs young people who dream for an end to malaria, who dream of peace and unity and an end to poverty. It’s no longer the next generation’s job. It’s ours.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. -Margaret Mead, anthropologist


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