Six months ago, I joined the elite club of “50-somethings,” and tomorrow my youngest child will no longer be a teenager. Now that I’m achieving these milestones, I sometimes find myself tempted to embrace some of those sayings that “old fogies” like my parents used to espouse, much to my irritation and indignation. Among the sayings I hated most was “Youth is wasted on the young.” Yet as a parent of late adolescent and young adult children, and as a child and adolescent psychiatrist, I began – slowly and reluctantly – to concede that this statement may have some validity.
Then this morning, as I read about Malala Yousafzai being discharged from a British hospital, I was reminded why my contempt for such statements continued well into my adulthood. At the tender age of 15, Malala’s brilliant and courageous activism on behalf of women and girls in Pakistan who dare to aspire to obtain a basic education was so threatening to the evil cowards of the Taliban that they attempted to assassinate her by spraying her with bullets, some of which plunged into her head and neck.
Malala’s exuberance, perseverance and courage inspire us so powerfully that we are forced to reject those cynical words that youth is “wasted” on the young. I, for one, am happy to do so. Today, Malala has been discharged home to spend some time with her family before she will eventually have to be readmitted for reconstructive surgery on her skull. Malala reminds us that not only is youth not wasted on the young, it is actually bestowed upon them from above as a blessing to us all. By her shining example she compels us current “old fogies” to love, nurture and appreciate our young people and dispense with derogatory – and inaccurate – old sayings.