Thirteen With A Weird Request
Posted by Hal in Manly Virtues

A reader wrote in last week asking for help with a son’s difficulty:

We are trying to “prep” our 13 year old son for an interview at our local history museum. He would like to volunteer there but they seem sceptical as to “why any 13 year old boy would want to” (according to the receptionist.) We will have our son speak for himself both in the areas of his knowledge of the Civil War but also for his character, to the director of the museum. Any suggestions?

My first thought is that of course a 13 year old who loves history wants to hang around a museum and talk about the Civil War all day. Makes perfect sense to me! It may not be “normal,” I’ll grant, but I tell our kids normal means “average” and I don’t intend to raise “average” kids.

It struck me that this is a perfect example of one of our society’s major failures — we don’t think our young people are capable of doing something useful, unless it fits restricted categories of yardwork, babysitting, and fast food jobs (now that bagging groceries, pumping gas, and delivering newspapers have gone out of fashion).

As a practical matter, we encouraged this family to do what they already planned — to let their young man speak for himself and take the initiative in contacting the museum and meeting with the director.  They might want to do some practice interviews at home, and ask the most obvious, undesireable questions (like, “Why in the world would a teenager want to spend his free time hanging around indoors at the museum? Aren’t you a little young to be talking with adult visitors?”) so he can gain confidence and figure out how to answer the tough ones.

[Side note: My experience has been, if there is a question you find yourself praying, “Lord, just don’t let them ask that,” then that is exactly the question you need to be ready to answer. This is true whether it’s a final exam, a job interview, or a session on the CBS Evening News – and I’ve done all three.]

I’d suggest the museum think about Albert Woolson’s story. He was the last surviving veteran of the War Between The States, and he was just 14 when he enlisted as a drummer boy in the 1st Regiment, Minnesota Heavy Artillery, in 1864. He had a lot of company then, on both sides of the field, but he was the last man standing when he died in 1956.  Admiral David Farragut of the U.S. Navy was a seasoned veteran by the time he reached The Battle of Mobile Bay, but he was an 11-year-old midshipman on the USS Essex during the War of 1812 … just another example.

Surely if a young guy could serve in his nation’s army or navy at that age, don’t you think one could handle himself at the local history museum a couple of afternoons a week? Or maybe this museum doesn’t really need volunteers, to be so quick to turn one away?


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