--Note: Turney first gave this speech at the Idaho County People’s March in January of this year.
Millennial. A general consensus says that a millennial is anyone born from 1980 to 2000 and can also be referred to as Generation Y.
What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear that word, millennial? I can imagine in a lot of cases it is not something positive. In fact, it is most likely along the lines of “Millennial: The entitled, lazy, sensitive, tech absorbed generation…”.
Hello. My name is Kelly Turney, I’m 24 years old and I am a millennial.
I am here today to hopefully give you a little hope in regard to my generation.
Encouragement. Who doesn’t like to be encouraged?
I want you to think back on your life to the instances when you were mentored even in the smallest of ways. In some way or another, it helped form who you are today, whether you remember those moments or not.
Without the help of those ahead of us, we would have to start at the beginning.
When you are told something enough times you start to think to yourself that maybe it is true. When someone sets the standards low for you, well, you tend to think that is the best you are supposed to do.
“Back in the day” young people were given big responsibility at young ages.
There is this idea, this mindset in our culture, that people in the millennial category are different. And often that "different" is not portrayed in a good, positive light.
They are lazy.
They are addicted to technology.
They don't have jobs.
They are all in debt.
They have no practical skills.
They have no respect.
They can't do anything.
They don't know what hard work is.
I've heard it many times.
And do you know the kind of mindset this gave me? It gave me the mindset that I was not trustworthy of any responsibility.
My parents always valued my opinion growing up and they gave me jobs and responsibilities. They taught me to respect my elders and to ask for help. As my dad always told me, “The worst they can do is say ‘no.’” And so I was mentored by not only my parents, but by numerous people around me. They taught me to volunteer to help my community and to better myself all at the same time. They taught me to help people without expecting something in return, to be kind and gracious toward all whom I encounter.
I had no desire to go to college, being as there was nothing there that I was particularly interested in and I didn’t want to waste my time and money in something that my heart was not in. However, I then had this thought that because I was not “educated” I had nothing to offer anyone.
When I was just 20 years old, I was asked to be on the board for a nonprofit organization called Hope Center. I was surprised....why would they want a "kid" like me?
Two years after joining the board, the director of the same organization decided to retire. I was encouraged through some older adults in my life to think about applying for the position myself and after laughing it off a few times, I finally asked the retiring director what she thought. Thinking she would advise me that this was a job for a much older, more mature person, I was shocked when she told me that I had been on her list of people she was praying for to consider the job.
So, I announced to the board that I would like to apply, to which they responded with simply accepting me right then and there as the new director to be in effect the following year.
Keep in mind I do not tell this story to brag, but I tell it because I want to tell you what my thought process has been in the three years since.
As I stepped into a position where I was the youngest person by far among the board and volunteers, my "Imposter Syndrome" flared up to an extreme. I struggled. I still struggle.
Me? Could I do this, too? Could I learn to head up and lead this organization the way it needed to be led?
I had this idea that society had formed in my head that I, as a millennial, could not handle this kind of responsibility. I didn’t have experience. I hadn’t been to college.
And, apparently, I didn’t know anything.
Now this isn’t a story of how I discovered that I was special or that I suddenly did great things or telling you how to raise your kids, but to show you what encouragement and mentoring did in my life. God used every single one of those people in my life, whether for 20 seconds or 20 years, to impact me.
I realized I needed to stop going by what society says and start realizing that God had put people in my life who told me I could do it, who advised me, who talked me through decisions with the wisdom they could offer.
And with their support I have learned, and I have grown through my experiences as executive director.
Since I started at Hope Center I decided that one of my goals was this....I wanted more people my age to be involved...and not because, as some people think, that I want to "replace" the older generation.
I want young people to be involved because how are we to learn but working with the ones who have already been through the thick of it? The generations that come before us have so much to offer and we should be eager to learn from them.
I’ve heard it said that young people and older people cannot relate, mostly because of the difference of technology and society and culture. And while this is true to an extent, it also has a lot to do with our attitude toward a situation.
The typical millennial may see their elder and think, "Well, there goes another grumpy old-timer".
And likewise, the "old-timer" thinks, "There goes another disrespectful young-in with their face glued to the phone.”
Don't hold something against someone because, "This is how we did it then." And likewise, don't roll your eyes, "Well, this is how we do it now."
Some people are born with the natural inclination to push themselves forward with the confidence to take hold of big things, regardless of circumstances that might surround them, but some of us are not. The rest of us need a push, sometimes a shove, a word of encouragement, a moment of mentoring or a moment of simply caring and being lifted up.
We need each other. Each end of the spectrum has something to offer. I want to encourage you to be gracious toward us millennials, because yes, we are different, but not all in a negative way.
Respect each other. Learn from each other. If we encourage, equip and mentor each other, those younger and those older, then we will thrive as a community.
It’s not where we’re from, its where we’re going in making a difference in this life.
As a young Martin Luther King Jr. was inspired by his Christian beliefs, so am I that we can come together in unity that God intended for us.
- Kelly Turney is the director of Hope Center in Grangeville and Kamiah. She is also a local karate instructor and has her own photography business.