Challenges of youth

In this morning’s Sunday Telegraph, Charles, Prince of Wales, has highlighted the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on young people. He suggests that there could be a millions in need of urgent help. His article highlights what researchers have been saying for some time now. The impact of the virus on young people is far deeper and more complex than just the effects of the disease. Education gaps between richer and poorer students have widened during lockdown. Experts warn that the decrease in face-to-face contact is causing damage to developing young minds and emotions. Around the world young people have been hit harder by the unemployment that has come from the virus and the response of governments to it than those of other ages.

Prince Charles wrote, “For anyone, this is a difficult time - but it is a particularly difficult time to be young.” The article caught my eye in part because, like me, Charles is no longer a young person. At 71, he tested positive for the virus early in the pandemic. There has been a lot of information about the effects of the virus on old people. Researchers say that the risk of severe complications and death rises with the age of the victims. However, the Prince chose not to highlight the risks for people our age, but rather, to speak of the need for hope and serious support for young people during the pandemic. Using the charity he founded in the 1970’s, he has set up a Young People Relief Fund to provide some of that support.

In England, as in the United States, university students have returned to classes this fall in a variety of hybrid learning situations. Many are taking the majority of their classes online whether or not they are able to reside on campus. Although young people are skilled in the use of computers and social media, the lack of face-to-face contact with their peers and the shift in options for social interaction and communal learning has shifted the process dramatically. Without the same options for networking as were provided by in-person university learning it is much more difficult to launch a career after years of preparation.

The term “college” comes from a description of the unique living environment of higher education. A collegium is a group of people who share the tasks of day-to-day living in order to be more efficient in the pursuit of a shared goal. Instead of living independently, members of a collegium come together so that they can share domestic tasks giving more time for research and education. While online education offers the convenience of not needing to travel to attend classes, it cannot offer the shared experiences of talking about educational content outside of class as a group of people share common tasks such as meal preparation and social life.

There are great concepts and ideas that have taken generations to mature that are difficult to understand. Those ideas are better learned and shared by people who are able to live and work together.

The story of humanity, however, is the story of challenges faced by people under pressure. Previous generations of young people have come of age in the midst of unique and challenging situations. We know that youth are highly adaptable and despite the worry and confusion of the worldwide pandemic, they are resilient. Prince Charles’ article is filled with hope for the possibilities that lie ahead for his nation’s young people. Hope is one thing that we elders receive when we invest time in being with younger people.

God of all of the times of our lives, we come before you in uncertain times. We are unsettled by the fears of illness and confused by the conflicting advice of leaders as they struggle to adapt to this worldwide threat to health and well being. In the midst of this crisis, we offer our prayers for young people who are seeking to complete their educations and launch their careers. So much has changed in such a shot amount of time that make it difficult for them to navigate the challenges of coming of age.

We lift up to your eternal care the adolescents and young adults of our communities. May they see hope and possibility in the midst of challenge. May they find new ways to forge community in the face of the danger of the spread of the virus. May they have access to the tools of learning and connecting with other people. We know that their lives will be vastly different from our own. May the new challenges they face be met with grace and creativity as we all seek to discover hope for the future.

You, who have created all that is, continue to create, bringing forth new opportunities and new challenges in the midst of our everyday lives. Help us to reflect the power of creation as we seek to restore hope and health to our communities. Give us the insight to grasp new solutions as we seek to provide the support and encouragement that young people need to face their futures and launch their adult lives. Keep us mindful of those who through no fault of their own are caught in poverty and unemployment. May we be mindful of the barriers that exist for so many young people and may we join them in seeking new ways to overcome those barriers and invite them into full participation in our communities.

God of all ages and stages of this life, help us to keep our connections with people of all ages. May we together discover the faith, hope and love that are essential to human life and that endure though all of the challenges and crises of life. Our future has always been in your hands. May we live lives that are dedicated to that future and invested in bringing faith, hope and love to others through our words and our actions. We pray in your holy name, Amen.

Copyright (c) 2020 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!