Thursday , October 12, 2017 - 4:00 AM
Today’s kids are growing up in a difficult world — an angry and scary world. There’s a lot of hand-wringing and finger-pointing about that, as though someone somewhere should do something about it. Well, they should. But so should we — the average people who pass through the lives of youngsters all around us, hopefully not invisibly.
I took some time to recall the grownups in my youthful years who made an impact. I’m surprised at how many there were. The list grew long enough to share, giving a glimpse of the difference common folks like you and me can make in kids’ lives if we want to be that person.
It doesn’t take that much to be the stranger in the store checkout line who steps aside to let the mom with six store-tired kids clustered around her go first. That mom won’t be the only one who learns from that gesture.
Be the carpool mom who smiles at her riders, makes sure they remembered their gloves, and asks how their day went when you pick them up at the end of their school day.
Be the junior high creative writing teacher who fished my essay out of the garbage can where I tossed it, entered it in an international competition, informed me that I won, then sat in the audience and cheered when I went onstage to receive my prize money.
Be the garbageman who whistles while he cheerfully performs a manual labor job, establishing himself and his work as respectable.
Be the church teacher who looks past a geeky young girl in hand-me-down clothing and thick glasses to see someone of value and, more importantly, treats her that way — so much that decades later, you’ll still be loved and revered as pivotal in the life of someone who, in her absolute loneliness, once wondered why life was worth living.
Be the fellow who says “yes” when neighbor kids come around asking if they can turn that old chicken coop in your backyard into a clubhouse. Really magnify your goodness by offering lumber scraps you have around the place, and help nail them the right places. Let the kids sweep it out, add cast-off chairs and a table, and don’t mind that they have to traipse across your lawn to get to “their” clubhouse in your backyard. Enjoy knowing that your willingness to say “yes” when you didn’t have to teaches them how to be more generous.
Be the grocery store owner who, when he tells a little girl she can have anything she wants in the fruit section and she points at the giant display poster of a strawberry hanging over the strawberries, gets out a ladder, climbs up to unhook it, and gives it to her over her mother’s protests because he keeps his word, and she never forgets that.
Be the driver in horrible traffic who, with kids strapped in the car, keeps a lid on the angry language boiling up inside and instead gives way to idiot drivers. Kids of any age will notice that and use your example (no matter what it is) as their guide when their time behind the wheel arrives.
Be the neighbor who finds something meaningful to do for the kid who wants to earn some money. You may only have a dollar, but give that kid a dollar job, and then when he finishes it and does it well, find a quarter to add to the dollar, along with a heap of praise for a job well done.
Be the church member who practices what you preach.
Be the person who considers knee-height as eye level, meaning you talk across to them by getting to their level, face-to-face. Kids are used to being talked down to; their stature makes it common. So your eyes looking at their eyes will say at least as much as anything coming out of your mouth.
Most of us wish we could give a better world to the kids around us. But through small, powerful moments, we can create a better world for them.
And turning hopeless to hopeful sure beats hand-wringing.
D. Louise Brown lives in Layton.
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