When I was in middle school, or rather junior high, which doesn't really seem that long ago to me but to you it was decades ago, I spent more time worrying about what I was wearing, how my hair and make-up looked, and how my peers would evaluate my appearance. I would have died if someone suggested I cut my hair, let alone shave it off. Even my peers, as judgmental as it may sound, would never have made such a sacrifice in the name of others. For one brief moment, they may have decided to take a noble stance, shave their head, and donate their hair; however, a few days down the road, sad to say, their empathetic gesture would be forgotten and all self doubts and necessity for peer acceptance would resume center stage.
For me, and my peers, it was the age of MTV, conformity, and awkward gawkiness. I look at middle school kids today, especially the girls, they are beautiful, put together, grown-up in so many ways, and even with the need to be "in", they have a greater level of acceptance for themselves and others. They have a better understanding of others and appreciation for individual differences.
People often talk about "kids today" and what they don't understand, appreciate or know how to do, but it is a very different world. Today's teens are more involved in school activities, athletics, and outside interests. Society is far more fast-paced. They have greater access to drugs, they are aware of more "adult" topics, they are expected to engage in and manage a rapidly growing and changing social media. There is also more pressure to grow-up faster, to prepare for college earlier (beginning even in elementary school), and to be aware that they might make a decision today that will unchangeably alter their future and forever leave a digital footprint. Combine that with the things I had to deal with, some of which still exist- peer pressure, bullying, the awkward teen years, 80s fashion (what was the fashion world thinking?), relationships, friendships, and all the general challenges that face us as we grow up and hopefully mature. I wouldn't go back and do any of it again- there are so few of us who would.
After watching more than 200 middle schoolers cut their hair and shave their heads at our school's St. Baldrick's fundraising event (http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-03-15/news/ct-tl-d64-head-shaving-20130315_1_cancer-research-heads-long-hair), for some of them this is the second time doing so, I think we should give kudos to today's youth- especially these young women. Your noble deeds, your sacrifice for others, and the confidence in who you are and how you look truly is impressive. Bravo!