This may surprise my regular readers, but I usually don’t end late-night adventures being interviewed by the police. Last night was an exception to that usual set of circumstances. It started after our school’s graduation. Logan’s class was responsible for putting on a reception after the absolutely lovely ceremony. The kids did a great job setting up, hosting, tearing everything down, and cleaning up.
One of Logan’s friends graduated so after we were finished at the school we went to Wendy’s to get some food and spend time together. It was after 10:00 so the dining room inside was closed but the drive-thru was open. We got food and hung out together in the parking lot. There were six teens including the eighteen-year-old graduate, two upper elementary cousins, and three parents. After we ate, the kids were playing some live-action version of Pokemon that I didn’t understand but it was very entertaining to watch. I’m not sure where this description should go but I want to note that the teen girls were wearing semi-formal performance attire and the boys were wearing tuxedo shirts and bow ties. They weren’t on social media, they weren’t trying to bother other customers, and they tossed all their garbage into the trash cans. One of the girls and I were imagining what the workers watching were thinking of us. We were laughing guessing that they were making videos saying, “These kids are nuts! There’s no hope for the next generation!” and other common observations. That thought made us laugh because the graduate wasn’t drinking or being wild, just having fun with his younger friends and siblings. Honestly, I was so proud of them.
Suddenly, an employee popped her head out. She was clearly upset and yelled, “The cops will be here in five minutes!” and then disappeared back into the building. We all looked around at each other and worked to figure out why the police had been called. Were the kids doing something wrong? Were we breaking any laws? Had we been asked to leave? No, no, and no. The graduate got nervous, cleaned everything up around his vehicle, said he was tired, and left with his family. Only three of us were left - Logan, one of his classmates, and me. I wanted to stick around to talk to the police. I assumed they had our vehicle information and I wanted to know what was being reported about us.
Two officers came. First, they talked to the employees then they came and talked to us. I gave my name and information and said that we had never been asked to leave and we didn’t know we were upsetting anyone. The officer said that the employees were going to be going home soon and that they were afraid for their safety. I assured them we were just having a good time and didn’t intend to scare or upset anyone. I even commented on the wild experience of being kicked out of a Wendy’s parking lot and he informed me we weren’t even being kicked out. The whole thing was weird and kind of an exciting but sad end to a wonderful evening.
Today, I’m upset. Here’s the problem. I can see it from the employees' perspective. They appeared to be older women who looked out and saw a group of teenagers acting oddly and were scared. I’ve seen so many recent videos of teens acting like monsters - jumping on people’s cars, acting like fools to get social media content, and being degenerates. These women were scared that these kids were going to act like that too. Maybe without context, I would have felt the same way. This is why God hates sin so much. The sin of others ruins everything. I think these kids were innocent of wrongdoing but they experienced the fear and distrust caused by the sin of others. To put it in modern phrasing, “This is why we can’t have nice things!”
Yet I’m bothered that we weren’t asked to leave before they called the police. We weren’t given the opportunity to do right by them. I’m so sick of hearing adults complain about kids these days when they do everything in their power to avoid interacting with them. “Kids are always on social media,” adults say as they watch teens’ videos and share their content. Fun fact, I don’t think many twelve-year-olds are paying their own phone bill which means adults are complaining while actively supporting teens’ social media consumption. On top of being complicit in their social media consumption, many adults actively avoid interacting with teens. Regarding teaching children about God and his law, Moses said, “Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 6:7) If you spend more time complaining about “kids these days” but aren’t willing to invest in this generation, you are part of the problem. On Twitter, someone posted a “kids these days” post and I shared a short version of last night’s adventures. I said that my fear is that the kids learned that they were doing something wrong and that the “safer” activity was staying home and playing video games or scrolling through social media. As a society, we’ve made being on a screen safer than spending time outside then we wonder why kids are unhealthy, screen-addicted, and depressed. We have got to do better.
It may be cliche and overused but be the change you want to see in the world. Get involved in your church’s youth group. Hire neighborhood teens to work with you in your yard. Demonstrate the love of God and show interest in their lives. Your investment will make a difference and you will be blessed beyond measure as I know I have been.
"A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one."