Gen Z is into Serving Others
I often get the question as to whether Gen Z is as willing to serve people in need as older generations. My response is Yes, they are . . . but maybe not exactly like my generation—Boomers. The question about Gen Z comes from the suspicion that younger folk are more self-centered and, therefore, less willing to serve others. However, my experience is that if they are given an opportunity, they usually step up.
I recently saw a story that confirms my belief in the willingness of Gen Zers to serve others—a story that appeared a couple of weeks ago on CBS News. You may have seen it too. If you’re interested in seeing the story, go here.
As the story goes, a group of high school boys at Canterbury School in Fort Myers, FL, were talking and joking one day about how poorly their grandparents deal with technology, especially their smartphones. (In the interest of transparency, I am one!) When the laughter died down, one of the boys suggested they might be able to help older people who struggle with new tech stuff.
One thing led to another, and the boys formed a group they called CLEO—Computer Literacy Education Outreach. Their purpose is to help seniors learn how to use their own devices, especially their smartphones. So, once a week, the boys walk next door to the Brookdale Senior Living facility and spend time with the residents helping them learn how to turn their phones on and off, navigate some of their apps, and manage their email.
As a result of CLEO’s help, one resident discovered she had 122,000 unread emails! With the help of her young friend, she “cleaned out” her inbox. One of the residents said he couldn’t figure out how to send a picture in a text until one of the CLEO kids explained the process to him.
I want to offer several observations about this story:
- The idea to serve seniors originated with teenagers. No one convinced them they should do it; they came up with the idea on their own. And it happened as it does for most people—they saw a need and did what they could to meet it.
- CLEO’s serving the residents of Brookdale stemmed from their love for and expertise with technology. The boys knew they had something the seniors needed and were committed to serving them at this point of need. Originally, they emailed Brookdale about their idea but received no response, so they just walked over to the facility. When you are looking for ways to serve, it always helps to take stock of what you have to offer.
- Helping the residents of Brookdale learn how to use their cell phones wasn’t the only outcome of CLEO’s serving. They formed friendships with the seniors as well. Now, they are not just helping seniors with the technology they take for granted; they are helping friends. This is another principle of serving others, namely, it facilitates/strengthens relationships with the people you serve. And those relationships replace the reason the serving began in the first place in importance.
Teens Pack 50,000 Meals
I can offer another example of Gen Zers stepping up to serve others. My grandson, Drew, is a Junior in high school. He is active in the school’s SGA and is leading them to stage a huge food packing event to feed hungry people in their community. Two hundred students will assemble non-perishable food for several hours that will provide 50,000 meals for their hungry neighbors. The food will be distributed by local food pantries.
The students have raised the funds to pay for the ingredients and supplies for the event. They are recruiting fellow students to serve. It will be the largest service event for the large high school this year. And it was initiated by students!
Operation Inasmuch is working with the students to stage this event. Of course, I am happy to be working with my grandson in this endeavor, but what really pleases me is the event once again proves Gen Zers are willing and able to serve others. Like adults, they just need an opportunity.
What do you think about the engagement of younger folk in serving others? Do you have stories like these you can share? I’d love to hear them.
As a Gen X youth and missions minister who has been at it for 20+ years, I see how concerned, active, and involved Gen Z is. They go about it in a different way than Millennials, who tend to be louder about it (in a good way). Don’t take this the wrong way, but the bulk of all three of these generations would likely vote Boomers as the most selfish of the generations. You’re not of course, but there are generational differences. We need to stop judging each other and follow Christ in our own ways. It sounds like your grandson and his friends are doing just that. By the way, Gen Z loves Jesus a lot but not necessarily “Christian” subculture and its politics.