Most of us have a problem with answering a question like, “What’s great about you?” Most of us want to appear to be modest, and our culture doesn’t especially appreciate boasting or bragging. This is why when we see NFL players doing a little dance or something after scoring a touchdown, it just doesn’t set right with us even though we realize it’s part of the today’s sport culture.

As a high school athlete, I can’t ever remember a coach telling me about any personal statistics with the exception of track and field. It just wasn’t done. We had the honor roll in high school, which let us know how we were doing in our subjects but no one really dwelt on it. Our parents even admonished us for any sort of bragging.

This attitude carried over into my teaching to some extent. I used to tell my students who asked me if there was some little treat I could give them for doing their work. I said sure, “I’ll give you a pat on the back.”

Should we make an effort about telling kids or adults how great they are? Would reminding kids of their good qualities deter suicide, for example?

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among youth ages 10-24. Suicide is referred to as the death of despair. About 123 people commit suicide daily and over half of all suicides are firearm related. Significantly more males commit suicide than females.

I am no expert on suicide or suicide prevention. I just know that it is a tragedy that affected families never get over. I am sure there are many haunting questions like, “What more could we have done or should we have done?”

The most common cause of suicide is untreated depression. Other related causes are addiction, unemployment, pain, terminal illness and trauma.

What, if anything, can we do about it? Certainly our world today seems to be more stressful than ever. We have lots to think about. I know we are not supposed to worry but we do. If adults have worries, you know our youth also have worries, which is too bad. They are supposed to be enjoying life or as Greta Thunberg, a leader of the climate protester movement when addressing the United Nations said, “You robbed me of my youth.”

The recent marches in major cities including right here in Bemidji relating to climate change tell us that our young people don’t have too much faith in the older generation to solve this global issue. They are worried because the impact of climate change seems to grow exponentially every year. All this adds to the stress level of kids. In many cases, the kids are right.

There is the old story about the lily pads covering a pond. If the lily pads were to cover the pond in 30 days and that the number of lilies doubles each day, at which day will the pond be half covered. The answer is on the 29th day, which means we have one day to fix the problem before the pads block the sunlight entering the pond thereby killing the vegetation below the pads. Environmentalists tell us we are in the 29th day.

So, you see, it gets pretty serious and our youth are well aware of it. They want adults to do something about it. We need to be honest with our young people and we especially want them to be hopeful. As adults, we need to do better to deal with local and global issues so our young people can enjoy being young.

Asking young people how great or good they are is a good question. It’s good because they should realize that they are unique, they have good qualities, they have gifts the Creator has given them. All youth were born to be winners at something. They can make a difference.

When young people don’t see themselves as being good at anything and find themselves doubting their gifts, this is a red flag that adults need to be aware. I recently asked a group of eighth-graders to identify their gifts. Most could identify something, some really had to think about it and some could not. I have said this many times, it behooves parents and teachers to identify the gifts their students have to help eliminate some of the despair that young people may have.

If we are reminded that we do have unique talents, if we are reminded that we can make a contribution to help make a better world, young people are more likely to think better of themselves, which could lead to fewer suicides.

How do we do this?

“All You Need Is Love" is a song written by John Lennon and credited to Lennon–McCartney. It was first performed by the Beatles for a TV program called “Our World”, the very first live global television link. It was watched by 400 million in 26 countries on June 25, 1967. The verses of the song read:

"(Love, love, love) (Love, love, love)

"There's nothing you can do that can't be done

"Nothing you can sing that can't be sung

"Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game

"It's easy

"There's nothing you can make that can't be made

"No one you can save that can't be saved

"Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time

"It's easy

"All you need is love

"All you need is love"

You may think it sounds kind of corny but when you truly think about it, love is all we need. If love governs all of our actions and we first do things out of love, we can help young and old who are in despair. Best of all, it doesn’t cost anything. To remind young people how great they are, all we need is love.

Riddle: How did Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune make up the solar system? (They plan-et.) We need to do better at planning how our young people can give greater participation in improving our world. They are ready and willing.

100 percent graduation

Thanks to Wallace Upholstery, Buena Vista Ski Lodge and Kip Reinarz Firewood for supporting the 100 percent movement. We can help more kids graduate when we:

  1. Give them reasons to be hopeful
  2. Show them how to organize and become activists
  3. Remind them that they all have gifts

John R. Eggers of Bemidji is a former university professor and area principal. He also is a writer and public speaker.