|Generation Change: Roll Up Your Sleeves and Change the World|
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Don't just sit there wondering why the world is so messed up. Get up and do something about it! The teens you'll meet in this book are feeding the hungry, providing clean water for the thirsty, clothing the poor, housing the homeless, improving the environment and taking the Bible to new people. If they can do it, so can you! Author, activist and teenager Zach Hunter is committed to ending modern-day slavery. He's also passionate about helping other teens discover God's love for those who are suffering. Read this book to discover your passion and learn tangible ways to change your world!
Zach, you've already written about your own activism and your passion on the issue of modern day slavery. Why another book and why this title?
As I’ve gotten involved and met people, I've learned that a lot of nonprofits say that they know the work they do is good and teenagers would want to get involved but they don’t know how to actually reach teens. And teens say they'd love to get involved but don’t know how — or are trying to find organizations they can trust. This book is meant to bridge the gap. I tell stories of teens and young people getting involved around the world and making it a better a place. The title is a good name for this generation: Generation Change bridges the generation gap — it refers not just to teens and 20-somethings but to anyone who wants to get involved helping the poor and oppressed.
Who are the faces on the book cover?
Besides my face, which I didn’t really want there, are my friends. Instead of using stock photography or models, I got some real people. A couple of them have worked with me on my effort to end slavery and some are good support and good friends.
How would you say teens are stereotyped today?
I'd say a lot of people would say we're selfish, greedy...a lot of negative terms. If a bunch of teens on a school field trip go into a gas station along the way, people look nervous and think they're gong to steal something. A lot of negative baggage comes with being a teen. I think if you expect that type of stuff from us that’s what you'll get. I also think my generation will deliver if someone helps us aspire to greater things.
What’s different about the teens you write about in your book — and what do you think made them this way?
What's different is that they are passionate and they were given an opportunity and shown they could do something. They found out they could make a difference. There are examples of teens fighting hunger, malaria, homelessness and many other problems. The common thread is their passion and that people believed in them all along the way — they took what they knew and what they had and did something about the problems they saw.
You say it helps to have adults who believe in you. What else can adults do?
Adults can encourage kids by not being a wet blanket on the ideas we have. Of course adults have more experience than we do, but instead of trying to show us why our ideas won’t work, maybe they could listen, encourage, and let the dream develop. There will be plenty of time to help direct the efforts and provide wisdom without putting out the fire of passion for the poor. They can also demonstrate going outside their own comfort zones by serving together with teens. That’s a good way to instill Christ-like love for the poor. Adults can set expectations about what people of faith do to help the poor.
Basically set the example?
Right...and work with us as we chase the dream of living out our faith in more courageous ways.
Zach, you structure "Generation Change" deliberately with one-word chapter titles, stories and examples, and then practical steps.
Some chapters are titled after the big problems facing the world today like Clothing, Hunger, Environment, Unity, Poverty. But you also see titles like Kindness, Thanks, Truth, Friendship, and Creativity. While those may not be huge human rights issues or more tangible problems, I think we have a shortage of those attributes and they can help improve the world. I added "Creativity" because artists are passionate and have something honorable to do with their passion. Every chapter also gives practical ways to take action — even practical ways to be thankful and kind. It’s all about helping to motivate my generation to say you can do this too. And to say to the older generation you can do it too, you're not dead yet.
It's not a long book but you’ve got quite a few chapters.
One of the things I like about it [laughs] is that it's written in a way I would read it: short blog-like bursts — but coherent. At the end of each chapter there are bullet points, action points, to show people how to get involved — because I'd want to know right away how I can get involved, how can I help. There are also brainstorm sections to encourage people to think of their own ideas.
Give an example of the people you talk about in "Generation Change".
The story of Conner is about a friend of mine. He learned that children in Africa are so dehydrated that they cry dry tears. That struck him, and he decided to start something to solve the problem and provide clean water to these children. He worked with a group of friends and they're now digging their third well. His story's almost identical to mine and that's really great because he's about my age. The reason I included all these people is that they're all young and that resonates with this generation and proves that God can use all of us.
If a teenager said to you, "I'd like to do something but I don't know where to start," what would you say?
One of the first things I'd say is to use your influence to help others. Many people think it's only noble if you can go and help. But I tell people it's not dishonorable to use your voice — to go out and talk to people you care about. Find a passion and raise awareness about the issue. If it's the area of modern day slavery, go talk to people at Starbucks or call headquarters at chocolate companies and ask questions about using fair labor. There are so many things you can do. Raising money has been done, but don't think that's not useful just because it's been done. Many of the groups bringing help to the poor really need funding. There are a lot of ways to raise money that haven't been tried before. The loose change idea wasn't original but people got excited about the message behind it. Find something you're passionate about and raise interest, raise funds...and most important, do it with God and with others.
That segues into the next question: what drives you to do all this?
I've talked about passion. A lot of it is my passion for justice. People ask where that comes from and I say it comes from God. That raises a few eyebrows sometimes in mainstream media but I guess when people see Christians getting involved and helping the poor, it makes them rethink their stereotypes of Christians. They see people who are generous, caring, giving, concerned about justice — that's what Jesus cared about and spent his time doing — he cared for the people that society had forgotten.
But what tipped the scales for you to actually get involved, go public?
I've always been the "Don’t pick on that kid" person. God gave me a strong sense of justice pretty early in life and it evolved to this purpose now. I also had been studying some of my great heroes from history — Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — and discovered that there was still work to be done.
Do you think this passion has robbed you of just being a normal kid?
To answer that you first have to think what it means to be a normal kid and what comes naturally with the teen years. There are a lot of hours in the day and weeks in the year to do things. It's not like I'm making a huge sacrifice. The people who are in the field working to rescue slaves and digging wells are making the true sacrifices. So far, this has been rewarding and I wouldn't trade it for the lives I see some teens living.
How would you like people to use your book — or what do you hope they take from it?
I hope they would find something in it they can get passionate about. I hope it hits a nerve and makes them want to do something — to take an action point and make it their own and make the world a better place because of it.
In the book you urge kids to focus on one passion — what are you doing these days about slavery?
I'm continuing to encourage students to launch the LC2LC campaign, writing about the problem and raising awareness and funds where I can. It's not something I have to deliberately focus on — I guess it's a part of me. Just as people don't forget to eat, it's a natural part of who I am.
Some of your significant heroes are from history — people you read about. Fifty years after you're dead, what do you want on your tombstone? What do you want people to read about you?
That's kind of a morbid question. [laughs] Well, I've actually thought about that before and I guess I think more about what I would hope God would say when I get to heaven: well done good and faithful servant. That's always amazed me that He'd say that to anyone. That would be the ultimate success — not really what people think about me. I guess to have something on my tombstone like "He done good" [laughs]. Seriously, I hope people would say something like "He loved God, loved others and served the poor".