Five years of living in close quarters and sharing life with a selection of young people from around the world has brightened my outlook. A few notable 20 something’s really started me on the path to hope. People like Madi Pip Stewart, aka Shark Girl and others were accomplishing so much.
It is with the flicker of hope and yet some real in trepidation that i hopped on “The Bus” to cross the country with a group of young intrepid travelers. We would sing, dance and rap our way to the Atlantic Ocean and one of the largest music festivals in the nation. I knew i would be around some drugs, professions of the problems of our time and probably the typical American disrespect for age. As one of the only “clean and sober” riders i pondered how much of a pain the drug takers might be. My sobriety is long lived and solid so i had not concerns for my safety, only the possible annoyance.
From the first day, all i saw was love, joy and a profound respect both for my age and sobriety. The young “Pranksters” took to me instantly and with warmth and sincerity. Sure there was some pot, but never on the bus and never the slightest problem for me, always after we got our work done and in camp.
Then we got to the Gathering of the Vibes festival. I remember rock festivals from the 60’s and their demise in the 70’s. the “scene” turned dark, heavy drugs, selfishness and violence replaces the peace and love of the 60’s. With this as a reference i was apprehensive for sure so when i found myself in the middle of a family loving, sharing, joyous, music loving crowd my fears vanished.
I have talked about the demise of the entrepreneurial spirit in the young, the lack of interest in being self employed, trying new business adventures and risking security. i felt the spirit was dead. Low and behold i found it in the most unpredicted place, the music festival. The kids i met followed festivals all summer selling their wares, t shirts, handmade art, body painting and an array of self produced products. Right down to the food venders the resulting high energy, dedication and hard hard work was evident all around. Some found a need in a small knitch market; solar cell phone charging, ear plugs or hammocks. Some were involved in the design, overseas production and marketing of their product (reminded me of me) All were full on, sell sell sell, and loving it. the American dream is alive and well, just wearing tie-dye instead of three piece suits.
I spent my days and nights hanging out at the bus, in the camp, doing balloon tricks for kids, and at Wharf Rat meetings, hardly the hedonistic activities of the past. i bounced from one nonprofit booth to another delving into real discussions of the troubles of our times. i found young, well informed, concerned and activist kids who listened intensely and were open to real discussion.
A pivotal moment came when i heard the “School of Rock” show, all high school rock bands doing some wonderful old tunes. With over 20 kids rotating on the stage to do expertly orchestrated renditions of Stone, Eagles and Hale and Oats songs ending with a group rock of “Love Shack” that left me quivering with joy. The kids shared the spot light, no super stars, did intricate solos and harmonized with multiple vocalists all while confidently having a blast.
l leave this festival with a revived hope for the future. This generation was not here to copy the 60′ they were here to learn from the past and grow, to carve their own world, a world i am sure will be a great one. So now i rest easily; we of the 60’s can happily hand over the keys.