Entitled. Lazy. Disrespectful. These are just a few of the words I’ve heard “grownups” use to describe kids these days. “Those darn Millennials,” an angry, old crank might say, “They don’t know how to do anything but snap selfies and eat Tide Pods. What those kids need is…”

Travis Naughton

How would you finish that sentence? What exactly do young people need? A good whoopin’ once in a while? Compulsory military service? More religion?

I was spanked as a child. I followed in my parents’ footsteps by enlisting in the Marines. I was dragged to church by my father throughout my childhood. Yet back when I was a young man, I was nothing more than an entitled, lazy, and disrespectful young punk.

When I was in my late-teens and early 20s, I felt like the world owed me something. I hated to have to work for anything. I lied to my parents, my employers, and especially myself. I blamed my problems and disappointments on everyone else. In other words, I was a pretty typical kid. I’m sure the Baby Boomers were muttering to themselves, “Those darn Generation Xers. They don’t know how to do anything but bang their heads and drink beer.”

Kids these days. Are they really any worse than my friends and I were at their age? And were we really any worse than our hippie-boomer parents were in the 60s? I don’t think so.

Kids haven’t changed much, but the world certainly has. Cable TV, the internet, and smartphones amplify every mistake kids make. When I was young, no one ever captured my stupidity on video and broadcast it to the four corners of the world. Thank goodness for that.

Every generation has its fair share of idiots. Eating Tide Pods is dumb, but it is no dumber than drinking a case of beer while driving down a winding country road with a car full of drunken teenagers the night before taking the ACT college entrance exam. Not that I would know anything about that.

I submit to you that Millennials and post-Millennials deserve much more credit than we give them. I’ve seen with my own eyes, in the cast and crew of SoBoCo High School’s production of “The Addams Family”, examples of just how great the kids in these younger generations actually are.

As I watched last Sunday’s matinee performance, it became clear to me that the future is very bright and full of promise. Not only did Sydney Borisenko and Gracie Cameron shine as Morticia and Wednesday Addams, they also choreographed the show’s fabulous dance routines. Grant Rust (Uncle Fester) and Kayla Jestis (Grandma) were hilarious in their roles, and Zoe Clark was nothing short of a scene-stealer in her role as Wednesday’s brother/torture victim Pugsley.

Ryan Nolan, performing in his ninth school production, nailed the part of patriarch/Latin lover Gomez Addams. Ryan’s sense of comedic timing was impeccable, and when he delivered lines and sang an entire song with a bloody nose, he proved what a pro he really is. The show, as they say, must go on. It did go on, and it was delightful. Everyone involved in the production did a fantastic job.

But I’m not a theatre critic. I’m just an observer of the human condition. And I can tell you that as good as those kids were on stage, they’re even better in real life. The young people living in Southern Boone County are good human beings, and as a community, we should be very proud of them.

There are other kids like them throughout this nation who also give me hope for the future. The students turned survivors turned activists from Parkland, Florida, determined to change their world for the better, are but one example. Young people everywhere are rejecting the status quo, condemning the prejudices of the past, and embracing change. While some older folks cling to outdated traditions and bemoan political correctness, the next generation moves toward empathy, acceptance, inclusivity, and kindness.

Kids these days? I think they’re pretty great.