Ally gets it. You see, Ally works hard. I talk to her in the grocery store where she is employed She is young, but speaks to me like an adult every time we chat. ‘Hi Dr. Leap, how are you?’ She engages me, even as she does her job, swiping items from the bottomless grocery cart of food my wife and I require to feed our teens and their friends.

A few days ago Ally and I had a great chat. I love to ask young people what they hope to do. There is a joy, an excitement in the best of them that is sometimes contagious. It reminds me of the way my wife and I saw our futures when we were in college and graduate school.

‘What are your plans, Ally?’

‘Well, I’m getting my GED, because I was sick and it messed up my high school schedule.’ In truth, Ally was more than sick. I know her father and I remember her illness, and the concern in her father’s eyes. It’s no surprise graduation was a challenge.

‘But I’m planning to go to nursing school. I like people, and I want to help them. And I know there are jobs. I have a friend who dropped out of college after paying tuition. She lost $7,000. She was getting a psychology degree. I don’t want to do anything like that.’ She explained that she doesn’t want to waste money, or have a degree with limited employment opportunities.

Ally is thinking and planning. She wants to go to the local technical college to get an associate’s degree as a registered nurse. In the interim, she wants to work in a local facility for the mentally challenged.

‘Ally, do you watch the job market, to see what jobs are doing well?’ I asked.

‘I read about it. Yes, I pay attention. I don’t want to be one of those people.’ By which she meant, those people who don’t think, don’t plan, don’t try and constantly need the support of family…or the state.

I’m proud of Ally. I’ve known her since she was a little child. I think that Ally is, to all intents and purposes, an adult. Despite her teenage years, she has more foresight and more insight than the overwhelming majority of college students I meet in the emergency room, wasting time and their parents’ money, drinking too much and thinking too little about the future: their future and the future of the country.

I hope she’s one of our nurses someday. If she is, I know I will be able to trust her. Because Ally has a plan, and Ally thinks. And Ally, unlike so many her age, will be just fine.

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