The doorbell rang at about 7:30 one evening and our resident official greeter, Kody the wonder dog, made his usual sprint for the door.
As I stepped outside to avoid a 95-pound, tail-wagging greeting for our unsuspecting caller, I was met by an attractive young lady with a small gift bag and a great smile. She introduced herself as Natalie from across the street.
Handing me the gift bag, she said, “I just wanted to let you know that we will be having a party Friday night, and that if we get too loud, please don’t hesitate to let us know so we can turn down the music and the noise.”
I was taken aback by the gesture. Gathering my wits, I took a guess that Natalie might be the same youngster who for many years I had heard practicing the piano, a pleasant contrast to the crude rap music that occasionally invaded the neighborhood.
My guess was right. She was about to celebrate her 16th birthday, a poised young adult personally concerned about possibly disturbing her neighbors. It was a measure of civility and friendliness, which I’m sad to say has become a rarity in our community, particularly among young adults.
More typical is my recent experience with the young driver of a new BMW who sat on my bumper impatiently flashing his lights because I was “inconsiderately” driving the 25 mph legal limit and making stops at each stop sign in the neighborhood.
He is the unfortunate image of Glendale youth, which I witness and hear about all too frequently. I struggle to avoid reaching the same crotchety conclusion my folks reached about my generation — that there was little hope.
But recent studies of the attitudes of college students reveal an increasing level of narcissism and a notably decreased level of empathy for other people. These tendencies first became noticeable in the 1980s.
Some blame video games, social media, reality TV and self-absorption.
These attitudes will cripple many young adults as they struggle to overcome the brutal challenges they face — an educational system that is largely broken, and which neither adequately prepares them for college nor realistically redirects their expectations toward the technical skill areas needed in our increasingly complex economy.
They will be greeted by fewer jobs for college grads and low-paying service jobs for those who go no further than high school. Their movement into the workforce will encounter higher taxes, fewer employee benefits, a lower standard of living and retirement at an older age than prior generations.
Not too promising, and certainly not a world easily navigated by attitudes of rudeness and disrespect toward others. But we of the older generation need to be careful in passing judgment.
We contributed to the current state of affairs by our failure to pay attention. We are the ones largely responsible for the behaviors and attitudes of this generation. The world they confront happened on our watch.
We elected the legislatures that refuse to function; we allowed the financial environment and extreme risk-taking that has reduced opportunity and created the drastic inequality in income that threatens the very existence of the middle class.
But I am not without hope. The Natalies of this world revitalize my belief that concern for others is still present among many members of the generation waiting in the wings. She gives me renewed confidence that the values and civilities that have seen our community and our country through many crises can re-emerge as we make our way through this current tough time.
Happy birthday, Natalie. And congratulations to your parents for raising a daughter of whom they should be very proud.
PAT GRANT has lived in Glendale for more than 30 years and was formerly a marketing manager for an insurance company. He may be reached at email@example.com.