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The youth of today

– A personal observation

Whiling away interminably long hours lying in a hospital bed will drive anyone stir-crazy. The chatter of hospital staff becomes a blur and, even when there’s a television present in the room, it all becomes tedious.

Recently, I visited someone during their week-long hospital stay here in Jerusalem. While there, I saw something wonderful which gave me great hope for the future:

A hodgepodge of young people in their teens and twenties, clad in sandals and blue jeans, walked from room to room singing songs for the patients. Three women and two men, one playing the guitar and another playing the melodica, made up the informal ensemble. They weren’t particularly professional, but their wrong chords and misplayed notes could be forgiven. They made up for it glowingly with their passion and compassion.

They sang familiar Hebrew songs. There was “Lema’an achai v’rey-ai,” composed half a century ago by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, extolling peace in the house of the Lord. They also sang “V’hi sheh’amda,” part of the thousand-year-old Passover Haggadah holiday story. God’s Word has stood with our ancestors and for us, its words proclaim. Though in every generation enemies rise up to destroy us, the Blessed, Holy One delivers us from their hands. It was beautifully appropriate, coming just four days after 350 missiles were fired at Israel unsuccessfully from four Muslim nations.

The patients’ faces beamed with admiration.

What inspired me was the devotion of the young musicians. They didn’t have to be there. They could have been out having fun with friends or home watching videos on their smart phones. After all, don’t we of the older generation shake our heads in bewilderment at the wasted years of “The youth of today”?

The Psalmist declared them the heritage of the Lord and a reward. He called it praiseworthy to be the father of many children (127:3ff.). We have many examples:

ˑ For years, volunteers for a local organization have collected food from supermarkets, restaurants and food manufacturers, sorted it, then distributed it every week among the poor and elderly in our neighborhood. I know because they used our garage to store the dry goods. Young people ran the entire operation themselves.

ˑ Just up the street from our home is a building that is a home for severely disabled persons. They are unable to communicate or care for themselves. Every day they are walked down the street and through the local park, each one accompanied by a young caretaker. I have watched them for years and have admired these devoted young people. They are earthly angels.

ˑ After the horrible, heart-wrenching events of October 7 last year, the army called up 300,000 reserves. Yet over 335,000 soldiers showed up to serve their country. They were men and women of all ages, but those in their twenties were prominent among them. Some have been serving for six months, have even lost jobs and had their businesses go under, but their patriotism is unshaken.

As parents, there are times when we ask ourselves, “Where did we go wrong?” That may sometimes be true. But I believe our children, notwithstanding their innocence or their foolishness, are resilient, have vision and focus. It is not obvious, but in crisis and need, they are there in determined force.

Even when the notes are out of tune.