What did you want to be when you were growing up? Is it what you are doing now? Did your dreams back then involve making the world a better place? Do they now?
Amidst all the high school and college graduations happening each week during this end-of-school-year season, I had the privilege of attending a small and sweet 5th grade graduation ceremony. During the celebration, we heard a few sentences from each child about what they wanted to achieve in their lives. To me, it was a heart-warming and inspiring experience because their answers were so different than the answers I used to hear from my pre-schoolers and their classmates. By 11 years old, my daughter and her peers have begun to see more of the world and be exposed to the problems of their communities and their planet.
When my kids and their friends were pre-schoolers, their answers to “What do you want to be when you grow up?” tended to involve jobs that were most visible to them: teacher, fireman, doctor, mommy, basketball player, etc. The 5th graders who crossed the stage this time were much more worldly than they were just six years ago.
These children have obviously been discussing thorny problems such as peace, global warming, and poverty. Kudos to their teachers for starting these conversations in class! Certainly, some kids still wanted to be doctors and athletes. Those are still great goals to reach for. But I admit that I got a bit teary eyed to hear a wide range of choices represented by the kids. Here are my favorite quotes from the celebration:
“My contribution to the world is going to be working at food shelters. I would like to work in other countries where food is most needed. I plan to go to medical school to become a general practitioner. I will care for sick people at the food shelters as well.”
“I plan to find a fuel for cars that doesn’t use gasoline. I will get my degree in science and engineering to help me research fuel alternatives. I will keep trying and perservere until I find a greener alternative for our environment. I am hoping to explore solar powered fuel and fuel generated by a high powered small windmill inside the car’s engine.”
“In my lifetime I hope to contribute to the world by changing laws so that we are helping and not hurting foreign economies. I will get there by writing letters to Congress and lobbying.”
“In my lifetime, I hope to contribute to the world by making the world a peaceful place. I will get there by explaining to people that we need to work together instead of fighting one another.”
“In my life, I hope to have a happy family, a career as a writer and have a reputation for being a kind and generous young woman I hope to be a person that makes a big change in this world and who helps a lot of people. I will accomplish that by starting to help people today.”
The kids are old enough to start understanding the challenges of our time and still young enough to be idealists unaffected by the Negative Nellies of the world who will eventually tell them “it can’t be done.” My wish for these children is that they will keep dreaming their dreams, get the education that will refine their ideas, keep thinking both locally and globally, and – above all – keep being inspired by the world’s problems and not be beaten down by them. I also hope that parents, teachers, and other adults in their lives will be inspired by their optimism and help them to build a world in which we can all survive and thrive.
IMAGE CREDIT MARK RAMSAY / FLICKR CREATIVE COMMONS
This is an original post written by Cindy Levin for World Moms Blog. Cindy also writes at Anti-Poverty Mom.