Reading the biographies in MaineToday Media’s “40 under 40” project, I was impressed. I thought about the many young people who are not finalists, or even nominated. I wondered, now that Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, and many other days have been celebrated, is it time to evaluate the next major “day” in the lives of Americans? I vote for a Young People’s Day.

I came to this conclusion in a roundabout way. I needed to get my life on a new track, but given my age and the economy there seemed to be few options. Then, a volunteer position working with young people to help them in meal planning and food preparation came my way.

These were people who have many challenges to meet, healthy diets being only one of them. As site coordinator, my responsibilities included purchasing groceries, checking site requirements and, interacting with participants. This last responsibility opened my eyes. These young people have wonderful dreams and hopes.

Following that experience, I took a job requiring me to work with people young enough to be my grandchildren. Men and women who go to college, raise families and who have accepted the responsibilities of life.

I was apprehensive. The job is one I have never done before and, never expected to do. I am a customer service employee at a grocery store. Let me tell you the job is not easy. And, the people who trained me wondered who James Arness of “Gunsmoke” was and pondered why his death made headlines. They were astonished that I know who Lady GaGa is and that Peter Gabriel’s music floats from my car.

I have learned much. The group I work with is willing to accept the challenges given them. They represent a component of youth throughout the country. Some of my coworkers look for additional hours in order to meet their goals of receiving a higher education. Others take difficult hours in order to provide a life for their families. All have dreams and hopes of a successful future — dreams no different than mine at their age.

This is not to say that all problems will be solved by the young, but we can be confident that they will carry the banners of prosperity, fairness and equality. They will comprise the next “Greatest Generation.”

Yes, there is still warring throughout the world and hunger and homelessness and all sorts of evil lurking in the oddest places. But the rays of hope are strong.

Long strides have been taken toward the humanity of man — strides taken, in part, by the youth of our country. Collectively, our hopes are alive and well, dwelling in the hearts and souls of our young people.

Someone, please, declare “Maine State Young People’s Day.” An annual reminder of the positive paths forged for all of us — paths traveled by the young and old together toward a bright future.

– Special to the Telegram