Then you, about 25 years old, with bright red hair and that particular Gen Z strength came into your presence, and still a vaguely soft demeanor. You paused, holding your boarding pass, inches from the red light scanner. You remained silent. I was wondering who you were. You were listening. You seemed to be in deep reflection. Perhaps I should better call it contemplation.

Before you swiped, you took a step back as if you were pushing yourself off the door. “You can recline your seat,” you said, handing the boarding pass back to the officer and then kindly walking away.

It was not an easy choice. You looked a little frustrated and hurt. The reserve list had just given you a first-class seat to New York, and now you weren’t going home tonight. I wanted to pay for your next flight or something, but you slipped away.

Gen Z’ers, one of you saved the day for me this week. I keep thinking of your most profound gesture and wish I knew your name. But based on your behavior, I am 100% sure that you are a member of Gen Z. I know this for certain because your generation is reworking our societal standards of civility, relationships and ethical culture.

I know we’ve caused you a lot of trouble. You inherit a lot to solve. But I take comfort in the fact that many of these problems may not be there for you because you won’t cause them in the first place. You have reversed the forms of thinking that have caused unnecessary conflict and hatred, power games, and you do not take what is not yours.

Having said all this, with your enlightened revision of the culture, your inner suffering is unsurpassed in the last four generations in our country. Diseases of despair in Gen Z — episodes of anxiety, depression, addiction and even suicidality are epidemic — and have escalated into a national health crisis by the US Surgeon General. Last week, the Washington Post published a survey that found that four in 10 teens are depressed and one in five have considered suicide.

Many members of Gen Z suffer deeply.

Now what do you need to reverse what we’ve given you (or haven’t given) to save your own inner life?

Research has a clear answer. Too many of you do not indicate that they feel connected to a Higher Power. Twenty-five years of hard data shows that having a spiritual core is the most powerful factor in preventing depression, addiction and even suicide. In your adulthood, having a felt transcendent relationship is linked to an 80% reduced relative risk of substance abuse, a 60% decrease in suffering from major depression, and a 50 to 80% decrease in suicide – a leading killer of your generation .

We know from MRI studies that the transcendent relationship awakens a circuit in your brain. And so, too, recovery from depression and addiction is enhanced when it comes to realizing or getting closer to our spiritual core.

Returning tickets, you are exactly the type of person who is going to undo the destruction and suffering that plagues our time. You showed me something life-changing. There’s no way I can reach you, here I’m trying to pay it in advance.

National polls show that Gen Zs are the least religious generation. But what I am describing here is not a faith-based connection, but a spiritual one. Peer-reviewed studies of twins confirm that religion (which is socialized by the environment) is not the same as our innate, tied-up capacity for personal spirituality (which is innate).

Whether your word is Higher Power, God, Jesus, Hashem, Allah, Spirit or the Universe, you have the opportunity to find your way back to the power of a transcendent relationship on your own terms. If you guys undo the mess we’ve made and save our outside world, please save yourself too. Over 25 years of research into the science of spirituality proves that your inner spiritual path will point the way forward. Invite your wise heart to connect with your Higher Power.

We love you,

From your moms and dads

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