Young adults are revolutionizing the world, literally: 26-year-old Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation spurred the revolts that have since shaken the Middle East.
Besides this radical change, young adults are finding ways to contribute abroad. Some volunteer, donating their time and often their money. Others go abroad to learn a language and experience a culture. Working in Morocco for the past year, I have met 20-somethings from all over the world doing just that. That’s a change: It’s called global understanding.
Why are 20-somethings today’s global changemakers? Two words: Technology and development.
Today’s young adults are technology-savvy. Moreover, they have used technology in a unique way, changing social media into a practical medium for anything from finding a free place to stay when traveling to building support for a revolution.
Technology is the medium for change; global development has allowed us to dream of it. The percentage of people living in extreme poverty has fallen, which means that more of today’s 20-somethings grew up with decent shelter, nutrition, healthcare, and education. For many young adults in the developed world, these necessities are not only decent, but excellent. Case in point: America’s 20-somethings are becoming the most educated generation in history.
People who have satisfied their own basic needs have more time to think about big problems in the world, including the needs of others. This is where technology steps in again, providing information about global injustices. A sense of financial security means we care less about money; we’ll drop it for the sake of a cause.
We’re young enough that we, perhaps naively, think we can fix the world’s problems. We’re old enough to be a bit more educated about the issues, a bit less self-concerned, a bit more self-aware. Enough of us are unmarried that we have the time to take action.
With all this potential, the 20-somethings just need to remember two things: don’t get cocky, and don’t forget the problems at home.
To the first: Learn humility. The process of creating change is long and difficult. A revolution in Egypt doesn’t mean that they now have a democratic government. Giving an orphan in Nicaragua a toy doesn't mean you've solved global poverty - nor is dropping a gift a sustainable solution. Celebrate the successes - big and small - but know that, if you really want to make a difference, you need to be ready for the long haul. So bring your optimism and your determination. Leave your God complex at home.
As for the second: Volunteer locally. The needs of the developing world are great, but Paul Farmer, a prominent American anthropologist and physician, reminds us that even though the developing world has impoverished countries, the developed world has its own pockets of poverty. As a plus, volunteering in your home community requires a lot less time and money. They’ll probably even speak your language.
Whether 20-something or not, you can make a difference: Read the news. Donate to a worthy cause. Learn a language. Get to know someone different from yourself. Volunteer - locally or globally. Step out of your comfort zone.
Change is happening, and the other generations can either sit back and watch or be part of it. It is worth saying: Today’s 20-somethings are making changes, for the better.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons