|Rock the Block shows needs of teens|
Two Fridays ago, May 18, my husband and I went to Rock the Block. We ate dinner at a favorite restaurant. We strolled hand in hand up and down Main Street exchanging grins and greetings and chatter with friends. We walked through open doors into brightly lit shops where smiling owners greeted us. We looked at the merchandise and made some purchases. We treated ourselves to some refreshments. We enjoyed the live music and the air of camaraderie all over town. In other words, we partook of the entire Rock the Block/Half Moon Bay experience, and enjoyed it thoroughly.
Indeed, it was wonderful. As Main Stage emcee Cameron Palmer put it, only in Half Moon Bay could you close off Main Street and sit out in the middle of town hearing live music with all your neighbors.
But then, gradually, I began noticing the older kids. The teens.
First a few, then more and more, gathering in front of MCoffee. A crowd just growing, standing around. Restlessly shifting from one foot to the other. No one in a hurry to go anywhere. Yet there was an intensity here. Either no one made direct eye contact with passersby or gave an almost aggressive stare. Some swaggered, announcing their status. Others flirted but darted away before thing got serious. All around there floated an undercurrent of discontent. You could almost taste the boredom. It wasn’t scary, but disquieting.
I flashed back on something I heard someone say years ago; The Coastside is heaven for adults and hell for kids.
And the kids themselves have echoed that for years: there’s nothing to do here. Well, they make a point.
Not everyone is into sports. Or theater. Or 4-H. Sure, it would be nice to have shops here, a movie theater, a TGIFriday’s-style restaurant, a bigger skate park, a place to dance. Some local churches and some youth groups have some of those things, but not all kids belong, or want to be part of a sanctioned group.
On the other hand, many adults, and no few kids too, like the open character of the coast. Do they want the town to grow so big that it has something here to accommodate every whim, every time?
We adults can’t accommodate everyone and everything, and maybe we shouldn’t try. Space, funds, permits are limited. And the charm of things just handed to you, without the pride and ownership that comes with helping build them, tends to wear off in surprisingly short order.
What about a halfway measure? Instead of handing out pacifiers, what happened to teaching kids to look in the mirror? Dig deep, tap into their own resources, make their own fun?
Remember teenager Krista Jorgensen, unfortunately no longer with us since she passed away due to illness, but who channeled her fondness for Harry Potter into founding a club for her like-minded peers?
Some ancient philosopher put it this way: Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, you feed him for life.
We have ample resources here. Open space, technical support, a bank of adults willing to offer support and resources -- without taking over. Of course there’s a flip side: It means more from those adults. More time and effort in showing our kids how to find inner resources, how to master the fine art of responsible action. Of course, it’s a demand: time and energy are things we don’t lightly commit, and realistically may not even have.
But instead of trying to fix the problem with a band-aid solution, a misguided rush to “give,” how about encouraging our youth to channel their considerable talents and energies into healthy action, to master the art of fishing for life?
Of course we want to see our kids happy, not restless, and not in trouble. But are we enabling the problem? Boredom doesn’t maim, but it can cripple.