Friday, July 12, 2024

The Kids Are All Right

Maybe it is the father within me, but I absolutely love to see our youth do amazing things, and as you may have read in this week’s newspaper, here in Meaford a couple of high school students are indeed doing amazing things: they have established a bicycle repair establishment at Victoria Village.

The TLC Bicycle Shop officially opened for business on May 25, although secondary students Lucas Van Horn and Tyler White have been working toward this goal for the past few years.

As noted in the article this week, the pair first became involved in bicycle repair in 2021, through their participation in the Ride Smart Cycling Education Program, which focuses on “promoting safe cycling behaviours, teaching essential cycling abilities, and creating safer riders and future drivers.”

After expressing interest in working on their own bicycles, the local OPP, along with the Ride Smart Program, took note of their passion as well as their potential, and provided the duo with proper bicycle tools and manuals to help them build their knowledge and skills in the field of bicycle repair. If you have ever wondered if these sorts of programs have value, Lucas and Tyler are a testament to the value that can be found in these initiatives.

It wasn’t long before these ambitious teens moved on from repairing their own bicycles to fixing the bikes of others, and last year another organization took note of the teens’ passion and drive. Grey County Housing offered to provide them space at Victoria Village in order to open a youth-run bike shop for residents.

As tends to happen when driven people have good ideas, more organizations also offered to help the duo with their initiative, like the Rotary Club of Meaford, along with the Municipality of Meaford, who have both provided funding to help outfit their shop, and even a local business, Hills Bike Shop, has offered training and ongoing support. Grey County Housing also provided $2,600 in funding to staff the shop for the summer months.

It is amazing what can happen when young people find support for their ideas, and are allowed to turn their passion into something bigger than themselves.

For all of the complaints we might hear from us older folks about the younger generations, the reality is that, like every generation before them they are often misunderstood, and they can be underestimated, if not ignored at times by the generations that precede them. But the kids are just fine, and they will find their way, not always following the same road map, just as your own generation did, and the generations before.

I am a Generation Xer myself, born in 1970, and I can still recall the feeling of being underestimated by the Boomer generation, and the generations before them, hearing them scoff at our crazy ideas, complaining about our horrid music, being told that we were losing our way, and our generation couldn’t be trusted with anything of importance, we would just mess everything up. It can be disheartening to a young person to be well aware of the doubts of the older generations about their chances of success.

However, in this story what we have seen are folks from older generations recognizing and embracing the passion and drive exhibited by two teenagers, and actually offering support and encouragement, and that is heartening indeed.

I tip my cap to these two ambitious teenage entrepreneurs. They found a passion, and they invested the time and energy to learn. And they found support from a number of organizations, from the municipality and the county, to local service clubs and businesses, all controlled by older generations who could just as easily have overlooked a couple of ‘pesky teenagers’. But these aren’t ‘pesky teenagers’ (most of them aren’t), but instead they are driven young men, who are making things happen in their community, and us elders are taking notice.

Their good news story should serve as a reminder that today’s teenagers aren’t all sitting inside on a nice sunny day playing video games and drinking Red Bulls. Many of today’s teens are busy honing skills that will serve them well as they march down the road toward adulthood; they have hopes and dreams, they have passion and ambition, and despite any doubts that we dinosaurs might express from time to time, they know well that they will in the years to come ultimately take the reins of a society that will be much different than today. Just as the world when I was in my teens in the 1980s is very much different than our society today.

In 1986, the year I earned my driver’s licence, gaining some adult-like freedom, I would never have envisioned the world we have today. A world in which we all have computers in our homes connected to the entire globe, with information literally at our fingertips. A world in which we all walk around with devices in our pockets capable of everything from making a phone call, to taking a photo, to accessing the world through the internet. I was moulded in a world of land-line rotary dial telephones and the Dewey Decimal system, my youth was much less complicated, and arguably much less uncertain (or so we thought at the time) than the youth of today. What will this world, this society, be like in another 20 or 30 years? We can all speculate, but we will likely be wrong; my generation thought we would be zipping around in flying cars in the then very distant twenty-first century.

I wish these two bicycle repair enthusiasts every success, and I am sure their story will help to inspire others to follow their passion. And for others it is a reminder that the kids are all right.

For more information about the Ride Smart Cycling Education Program, please visit www.ridesmartontario.ca.

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