“We should all be more like Alex. Imagine what the world would look like if we were. Imagine the suffering we could ease and the lives we could save.” President Barack Obama
There’s a lot going on – in our world and in the world at large. We’ve been too busy with work to actually take time to talk about work, about the community enhancing spaces we help libraries and others bring to residents, about festivals that celebrate the creative spirit and bring together mentors in the service of helping youth become caring, self-reliant and capable adults.
At the heart of everything we do is a driving desire to help people retain the child’s native spirit of curiosity, innovation and compassion. Children aren’t born hating. They don’t see race or judge one another on abilities or disabilities. They – we – are born explorers, unafraid of trying new things, of reaching out to one another with a helping hand.
Children don’t start wars. Adults who lost the vision and wonder of youth do.
Children slip sometimes. They can be cruel, self-centered and bullying. But those are often self-correcting mistakes that, with the guidance of caring adults, they can move beyond.
Some children don’t mature out of bullying. Their self-absorbed shortsightedness is reinforced by the curse of privilege, or a permanent willful ignorance rooted in place of the necessary curiosity about the world which brings vital perspective and new knowledge. Sometimes we call these people “childish”, but that’s an insult to children.
Alex, the young boy in the video created by the White House, now gone viral, is understandably simplistic in his approach to resolving the Syrian crisis, at least for the child in whose eyes he saw himself: Omran Daqneesh . He wants to bring Omran to his house to live with him, so he and his sister can share their things with him and help him feel better, and take care of him.
The politics and human tragedy of Syria can’t be erased by a child’s well meaning letter or a President’s heartfelt reception of it. If anything, perhaps the most moving thing about Alex’s letter is how helpless it makes us all feel. If only it could all be resolved as sweetly and simply as bringing Omran and everyone who hurts and suffers into our homes.
But that’s also what makes what we do matter to us: The belief that creating community through public spaces and public celebrations and showcases – sharing more equally and inclusively of the resources for creative and personal fulfillment, developing and celebrating skills for self-sufficiency and economic empowerment – can help us all become better adults who don’t lose that childlike wonder and compassion, and can help us all be more like Alex.