Teenager Exchange Program

In the division of labor in the Duff house, my daughter has what is probably the easiest job – emptying the dishwasher.  It isn’t hard to do, or particularly time consuming.  Rather than thank her lucky stars that she isn’t required to clean around the toilet her brother aims at poorly, she complains that this thrice a week task eats up too much of her time.  Or something.  I’m not sure what her excuse is, other than that NOW is, like, the WORST POSSIBLE TIME, and she’ll GET to it, don’t we trust her? 

She’s too old to manhandle, and there’s only so much I can take away from her.  Once her phone and TV and guitars are gone, she simply goes to sleep in what she believes to be a sensory deprivation chamber.  Yelling and lecturing become background noise after not too much time. 

Now.  Put that aside for just a second.  This morning I went to the monthly board meeting of the local Boys & Girls Club.  The Club is the beneficiary of this year’s Lowe’s Hero Program.  In this program, the people who work for Lowe’s donate their time and energy (and Lowe’s donates the necessary equipment) to do a huge community improvement project.  They are refurbishing the club.  They are painting the walls – not just with institutional grey, but with cheery murals.  They made the scoreboards in the gym work for the first time in anyone’s memory.  They are sodding the yard, planting flowers, building planters for vegetables, striping the parking lot, and pressure washing everything that can stand up to the pressure.

When I got there at 8 this morning, they were already at work, and clearly had been for a while.  THEY thanked US for giving them such a warm welcome.  THEY told US how excited they were about the project.

The guy in charge, Brandon or Brent or some millennial-type name like that (he even had a millennial-type “lumbersexual” beard and gelled hair) led us on a tour of what they’d done and what they were going to do.  The fact that he gets nothing out of it, beyond a sense of a job well done for a good cause, seemed not to phase him at all.  In fact, everyone working was a good bit younger than me: all of them seemed to be the millennials it is popular to complain about.  But they were working hard, and it was physical labor, and it was early in the morning.  No one slacked off.  No one complained. 

And it was the Boys & Girls Club.  You can’t find a better cause than that one. It’s a facility designed to target at-risk youth and give them a safe and warm and wholesome place to be while their parents are at work. 

The biggest risk my daughter faces on any given day is whether or not I will take away her late model iPhone because she missed the bus because of her failure to get out of her extremely comfortable bed, located in her own private room in her warm, dry house in a nice neighborhood.   

It struck me as significant that I went from begging an over-privileged teen to do her pittance of a share of the household chores to seeing a buildingful of bright-eyed, enthusiastic young folks doing something for underprivileged teens.  In a news cycle full of angry, mean, and spiteful talk; and in a personal cycle where I have legitimate worries that if my daughter were left to fend for herself that they would find her months later underneath an avalanche of ramen soup packets and dirty bowls; I was given a bright ray of hope.  There are people out there, people all lined up and ready to take over from my generation, who have a work ethic and skills and a desire to put a fresh coat of paint on their communities.

I’ll bet every last one of them empties the dishwasher when it needs emptying. 

Or maybe they don’t.  Other mothers tell me how helpful and kind my daughter is when she’s at their houses.  Truly, if I had a choice betw3een “be helpful at home” or “be helpful in public” I’d choose public every time.

What we really need is an exchange program.  I’ll send my daughter over to unload your dishwasher and you send me yours to unload mine.

Either way – I think we’ll be fine.

If you enjoyed this and want to read more like it, visit Lori at her website, www.loriduffwrites.com , on Twitter, or on Facebook. Lori is the Readers Favorite and eLit award winner for her latest release, “You Know I Love You Because You’re Still Alive.”  She is also the author of the bestselling books “Mismatched Shoes and Upside Down Pizza,” and “The Armadillo, the Pickaxe, and the Laundry Basket.


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