Tag Archives: Teenagers

Teens Pedal For Progress

Yesterday’s weather did not dampen the spirits of three Westport teens.

Lizzie Leonard, Will Hardy and Ned Hardy spent the afternoon collecting over 70 used bicycles.  Soon they’ll be sent overseas, for use by needy villagers as crucial transportation for education, employment and healthcare.

Ned — an 8th grader at Bedford — said he enjoyed “working for a good cause. And it’s fun!”

Will — a Staples junior — noted that through the Pedals For Progress organization, “there’s a micro-economy effect.”

Staples senior Lizzie added:  “I love my bike.  It’s my favorite possession.  Helping other people get bikes makes me happy.”

Just one more way Westport teenagers manage to spend some of their free time.

Will Hardy, Lizzie Leonard and Ned Hardy break down bikes for efficient shipping overseas.

Will Hardy, Lizzie Leonard and Ned Hardy break down bikes for efficient shipping overseas.

Belief Systems

Happy Easter!

And a belated Happy Passover, too.

Speaking of God, Inklings — the Staples newspaper — recently examined students’ views on religion. Though a survey found far more casual or non-believers than devout students, I was struck by many conversations that same day.

I asked a variety of Stapleites — with a broad range of groups and interests — about their Passover and Easter plans.

Many spoke of services, Seders and spending quality time with family.  They looked forward to nourishing their spiritual sides (along with their stomachs), and discussed the holidays with eagerness and joy.

I enter  synagogues and churches rarely — for weddings, funerals and youth group tag sales.  But I am well aware that one day, in an afterlife or next world I don’t believe in, I may get a rude awakening.  And I am glad that so many students today are thinking hard about their beliefs, trying to figure out where they (and I) fit in this amazing universe.

Driving Down The Age

The telephone.  The airplane.  TV dinners.

Given enough time, man can dream up anything.  But it takes a creative Westporter to think of this idea:

Lower the driving age to 14.

A middle-aged neighbor — who asked to remain nameless — has devised a new way to meld environmentalism and puberty.

“Everyone says kids are not responsible,” he explains.  “I think we need to give them more responsibility.”

At a time when our entire nation needs to be more responsible — particularly if we want future generations to do things like drive and live — this Westporter suggests handing car keys to boys and girls a year after their bar or bat mitzvahs.  Here’s the catch:  They could not drive high-speed vehicles.

“America needs to produce new types of cars,” he says.  “But manufacturers don’t think there’s a market for them.  If we allow 14- and 15-year-olds to drive — but not let them on highways, or in cars that go over 45 miles an hour — we’ll expand the market.  There’ll be a new sector for efficient, low-cost, locally driven cars.”  One more buzzkill for young drivers:  Their cars would be small enough to carry only one or two passengers.

The Westporter has a 14-year-old daughter.  Would he actually let her get behind the wheel?

“Sure!” he says cheerfully.  “She’d be a better driver than me tomorrow!”

He is a brave man indeed.  Just not brave enough to allow his name to be printed publicly.

Birds Take Flight

You know those enormous birds that sprouted recently on lawns all across Westport?  The ones promoting Project Return’s annual Birdhouse Auction April 3 at the Inn of Longshore?

Non-disappearing birds on Myrtle Avenue

Non-disappearing birds on Myrtle Avenue

According to WestportNow.com, at least 14 of them have “disappeared.”  I’d use the word “stolen,” but that’s because I remember my own teenage years, when I helped more than a few street signs “disappear.”

These birdhouses are a much more alluring target than road signs.  Of course, they’re also harder to hide in a basement or closet.  Not that I’m telling parents all over town to look there immediately ;).

And, without clear proof, I certainly won’t accuse Westport’s young people of doing something I would have done.  Times are tough for everyone.   You never know what will show up on eBay these days, do you?

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah

I heard “She Loves You” yesterday.  It was only the squintillionth time I’ve heard the Beatlemania-defining tune, which long ago receded into whatever part of my brain is reserved for songs I will still sing along to at 96, during my final days in a nursing home.

But this time was different.  Instead of bobbing almost unheard in the background, as familiar tunes often do, this time I heard it with almost cosmic clarity.  The joyful guitar licks, Ringo’s thumping drumming, the giddily optimistic lyrics — all came rushing back, as if hearing it for the first time ever.

In fact, I first heard “She Loves You” in the early spring of 1964.  I was not yet a teenager, but back in those pre-helicopter-parent days I enjoyed freedom today’s students only dream about.  I rode my bike wherever I wanted; my bazillion High Point Road friends and I played outside all afternoon, with no adults in sight, and when we were hungry we wandered into someone’s house and found food.

Everywhere I went, I carried my transistor radio.  It was laughably large compared to today’s teeny iPods, but as fifth graders who had just discovered rock ‘n’ roll, our lives demanded a soundtrack.  The Beatles, and so many other wannabe bands, provided it.

I thought of all this yesterday because the weather reminded me so much of the first time I heard “She Loves You.”  Winter was almost gone, but spring had not yet settled in.  Both times the afternoon was chilly, the wind gusting, but the world was also filled with something fresh, something cleansing, something to look forward to.

Back in 1964, the Beatles provided that breath of fresh air.  Now, 45 years later, half the band is dead.  We’re all a bit jaded; some of us are worried, a few even terrified.  But for 2 minutes yesterday, music and weather combined to take me back to a moment when anything — all things — seemed possible.

And you know that can’t be bad.

Risky Business

There were plenty of handouts at last night’s “Risky Behaviors” panel, sponsored by the Staples PTA. Drug use, drinking, eating disorders, peer pressure, self-mutilation, sex — you name it, a flier described it.

The parent next to me examined his stash. “What’s worse?” he asked. “This, or your 401 (k)?”

I figured it was a tossup.

But as the panelists —  a therapist, attorney, paramedic, youth detective and 6 articulate, probably quasi-angelic students — spoke, I thought of the Who song from my own teenage years:  “The Kids Are Alright.”

Sure, in Westport some (the majority? a lot? most?) smoke, drink, get high, have sex, drive like Jeff Gordon, and  instantly post photos of it all on Facebook.

Just like they do in New York, California and Utah. Especially Utah.

When I was at Staples, some of us did all that too (except Facebook).

But as the adults and teenagers talked about risky behavior — abusing Adderall, hooking up in basements, sending salacious photos by cellphone — other themes crept in. There was talk of how much these kids trust their parents, and confide in them. Of how far the police go not to arrest partying teens, even as their flashing lights scatter them like cockroaches. Of the fact that — though kids will always be kids — they’re being kids with  more designated drivers and common sense than ever before.

In the 1983  movie “Risky Business,” Tom Cruise threw a rager when his parents were out of town.  Last night, “Risky Behaviors” explored the same phenomenon. Twenty-six years from now, today’s teens will throw up their hands at their own kids’ antics.  Teenagers in 2035 will face similar perils, plus dangers yet unforeseen.

But I think their parents — the young people growing up in Westport today — will be well prepared for those challenges.  After all,  they’re being raised  in a community that respects them, values them, and will do all it can to help them succeed.

On second thought, they’ve got a much brighter future than my 401 (k).