Life has a way of forcing perspective on us out of the blue. Watching events unfold like the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, can cause us to feel small and insignificant. When deep-seated fears intrude on our day to day reality, we are pulled back in time to our childhoods when so much in our lives was mysterious and beyond our control.
Children fear some things we, as adults, find silly — like gravity suddenly turning off or monsters under the bed. We fancifully term it the “innocence of youth” and celebrate when it has been shed and our children have “grown up” or “come of age”. Yet, there is power in that innocence we don’t often recognize, possibly because we lament its loss too deeply.
In 2011, I began a series of blog posts I called “Your Voice Matters” in which I highlighted young people who, in spite of (or possibly because of) their youth, have accomplished some remarkable things. One of the most powerful of these extraordinary youngsters was Adora Svitak. At the age of 12, she gave a talk at the 2010 TED conference. (Her talk is just over eight minutes and worth every second of your time.)
In it, she discusses the idea that adults have as much to learn from children as children do from adults. She is referring to the strength of youthful innocence.
“When we don’t let our “others have failed—I’m too young—the problem’s too big” sort of knowledge become a roadblock to dreams, we can change the world. Call it the magical properties of not knowing…the unstoppable power of ideas.” — Adora Svitak
Now, at the ripe old age of 15, Adora is still teaching. You can find her YouTube channel here.
Well, you might be thinking, this is an exceptionally brilliant child. Few people have her advantages of intellect or resources. That may be true, but one does not have to be privileged, or a child prodigy to make a difference. Take Devon and Breydon, two brothers, aged 13 and 16, who saw a need in their community and created “Blessing Bags for the Homeless”. They raised money and bought toiletries and other essentials, bagged them up, and distributed them to homeless people in their city. They are still at it and you can learn more about them on their Facebook page.
Last year, De’Quonton Davis and some other students at John Hopkins Middle School, in St. Petersburg, Florida, noticed a rise in fighting and violence in their neighborhood which correlated with a similar rise in their school. Together, they produced a video in conjunction with PBS’s Student Reporting Labs to call attention to the growing problem.
Or, we can look at 14-year-old Nathaniel Ray. He has Tourette Syndrome and began speaking out about it by educating his classmates and, soon after, others. He joined up with the National Tourette Syndrome Association and their “Youth Ambassador Program” in 2010 and has given talks at dozens of schools since then.
These young people are making a difference because they dared to ask, “Why?” Why don’t adults listen more to kids? Why must there be homelessness? Why is my school becoming more violent? Why am I being picked on because of my disability? Youthful innocence is something to be cherished and nurtured, because only with it do we have the courage to ask these kinds of questions and seek out the answers without settling for “Because” or “That’s just the way it is”.
Age does not matter, but your voice does. If you see or hear something in your home, in your neighborhood, in your town, or in the world you feel is wrong, speak up! Call attention to it. You may be the spark to cause a positive change.
Oh! And lastly, give a smile to someone today. You’ll brighten their day, as well as your own.
Alan Tucker , author of The Mother-Earth Series (A Measure of Disorder, A Cure for Chaos, and Mother’s Heart), as well as a new science fiction novel, Knot in Time, is a dad, a graphic designer, and a soccer coach. Mostly in that order. He’s had a lifelong adoration of books, beginning with Encyclopedia Brown, progressing through Alan Dean Foster’s Flinx, and continuing on with the likes of Jim Butcher, Rachel Caine and Naomi Novik, to name a few.
“I wanted to write books that I’d enjoy reading. Books that I hoped my kids would enjoy too!”
Visit his website for more information about his books. View maps, watch trailers, see reviews and much more!