The youth section in Cavan’s library.

A teenage tidal-wave in the library

- Gerard Smith says the kids are alright in his latest WordSmith column...

Recently, people have been asking me how do I come up with ideas? And the answer is: Cavan is full of colour and character, it’s a veritable candy-shop offering a cornucopia of ideas for creatives and writers (the columns I could write, but can’t: wink-wink). One man asked specifically, “You must get writer's block, do you not?” And ironically, his question was the spur for this week’s column.

It was Saturday afternoon and I was in the library in the midst of a fearsome-fight; staring at my laptop battling a bout of writer’s block. Looking away from the annoyance of a blank screen, I became aware of the young people around me. They were all surrounded by school books, which took precedence over the laptops in front of them. There was a calm, studious atmosphere that seeped into me, and I found myself unblocked and scribing away.

But soon, that calm was shattered. The alarming screech of a chair across the floor was accompanied by a raised voice, “Can someone help me?” All heads looked up as an older man approached a table-full of students; his face showing a mix of distress and embarrassment as he pleaded, “I need to print something off so I do, and I don’t know how to do it, can one of you help me, please?”

His plea caused a teenage-tsunami as every young person surged to help him. Seeing this selfless surge of youngsters rush to help their elder caused a wave of emotion in me, and embarrassingly, I found myself gulping back a tear.

My visceral reaction to this event surprised me. But on reflection, I realised it highlighted a positive aspect to my life in Cavan that was long missing from my London counterpart: Young people’s relationship with, and respect for their elders.

I first noticed this soon after my return to Ireland. I was in the gym at Cavan Sports Complex, a young lad acknowledged me with a head nod. I looked around to see if it was directed at a friend of his. But no, his nod was for me.

I thought this unusual, because in the London gym, my middle years rendered me invisible; yet now, I was seen.

Today, I have a good gang of inter-generational gym besties; our easy banter and mutual respect rising above and beyond age difference.

One evening, while chatting to my brother on the phone, I mentioned this; “I don’t notice my age as much now I’m back in Cavan.” Immediately he replied, “I know what you mean.

” He lives in central Manchester, and he articulated his take, “I like talking to the young folk about football when I’m in Cavan, they don’t seem to mind talking to us oldies.” Now, I’m not saying Ireland is some age-less Nirvana wherein ageism doesn’t exist; I’ve no doubt it does, and many have experience of it. And, on the face of it, I’m not old. But I am older; and since my return I’ve become acutely aware of a greater social interaction between older and younger people in Cavan, that wasn’t my experience in London.

Maybe it’s a City Versus Town thing? Maybe it’s cultural; perhaps Ireland’s youth have a piety for their elders not held in other countries? I don’t know. But I do know that within my own family, all my elders are best friends with their grown grandkids – it’s great to see.

Anyway, back to the library. A young woman helped the man with his printing; in return he was effusive with his gratitude. The studious calm returned, but my scribing didn’t. I went for a walk and thought of this generation of young folk who exist in a world so far removed from that of, “My Generation.” There’s much talk of their immersion in Social Media and its resultant negative effects on their mental wellbeing; and therein are columns and studies far beyond my expertise.

But, seeing those young people immersed in their study; then witnessing their readiness to help an older person in need, was an experience that uplifted me.

It made me think: In a world where young people often get a bad rap, more often than not, “the kids are alright.”


My Fair Hill friend and I