Down with the kids

I believe the children are the future.

Or so warbled smooth soulster George Benson. Personally, I was always more of a Teenage Kicks kinda gal, but whichever way your musical leanings lie, let’s hear it for the youth of today. They’re the future, innit.

I’ve always been a fan of the yoof – adolescent angst, attitude and all. I was a fully paid up member of the teenage tearaway cohort myself, and am forever grateful that I was given some space to express my idiotic opinions and behaviour. Even more importantly, I was always encouraged to have dreams and ambitions. None of your all-American star-spangled aspiration for global fame and fortune, just a sense that I could, and should, look beyond my own wee milieu.

It was a mighty fine milieu, mind you. There were some real adventures to be had for me and my mates back in the day, but it certainly wasn’t all wee Regals, Woodpecker cider and The Clash. There was a growing sense of despair amongst many of my age – this was the late 70s, after all. There wasn’t a whole lot to look forward to unless you came from a family with money and ambition. I was only one of many who left school at the height of the Thatcher years, straight into Herschell Street dole office, clutching my tattered UB40 for the fortnightly signing on session. God, it was grim. For some of my old schoolmates it still is.

So maybe you’ll understand my disbelief and despair that yet again, the future is far from bright for so many of Scotland’s youngsters. It might not be too bad for those with inbuilt ambition and work ethic, and a few quid in the bank, but lest we forget, not too many in this particular part of post-industrial northern Europe share that good fortune. And personally, I’m not prepared to tolerate yet another generation being lost to poverty and poverty of aspiration – not for me the writing off of a whole swathe of young people as feckless wasters who are simply not worthy.

See, I reckon young people are just about the best possible investment opportunity going for grown ups. But this is an investment which takes time to mature, it’s not necessarily going to deliver a quick return. So forget offshore avarice, and get-rich-quick snake oil schemes, this is all about long terms dividends. This is the future, goddammit. And you know it makes sense. Economic and social sense.

It makes perfect sense to me that I should do my wee bit to lend an ear, some encouraging words and the benefit of my wisdom (yeah, whatever…) to a young person who’s not necessarily had the same lucky breaks or background as me. I can’t offer money, but I can offer time, experience and encouragement. See, I had people who believed in me, good folk who pushed me out of teenage lethargy and into action, but not all of the class of ’76 were so lucky, and neither are plenty of today’s teenagers, so I’m right up for a bit of championing.

I was looking for an investment opportunity anyway, a way to return just some of the stuff I’ve had the good fortune to learn and enjoy. So this week I have signed up to become a mentor on the city’s MCR Pathways project. There’s no going back now, I’m all fired up to nurture some untapped teenage potential. I know it’s not much of a commitment, just a few hours a month, but anything which helps break vicious cycles or gives a wee bit of self-belief and something to aim for’s gotta be good, right? Right. So what you waiting for, people? Who’s joining in to help young Glaswegians flourish?

You too can be down with the kids.