A child-like approach could change the world

Published 12:08 am Sunday, February 5, 2012

While sitting in John Cotten Tayloe Elementary School this week, I was once again reminded of how much children really do understand, how deep their thoughts are and how little we truly give them credit for.

I was sitting in a conference room reading over some of the essays that were submitted to the PTA by students for the 100th day of school, which happens to be Monday. The students were asked to write their thoughts about what they would do if they had 100 days to change the world. Here were some of the best:

“If I had one hundred days to change the world, I would help people in the nursing homes. And help them out of their beds. I would help them eat and walk around so they wouldn’t have so much trouble,” wrote one third-grade boy.

Another child wrote, “I want to go to school and get an Edication and go to collage and become a great, great, great, teacher like mine. I can change the world if I am a teacher.”

Spelling is obviously not her forte, but it isn’t mine either — just ask my editor.

One third-grader shared that “some girls have too many purses so I am gonna’ make them share with those who don’t,” while another wrote that he wanted to “change all the world into fields: basketball courts and baseball fields and there will be houses and homeless shelters.” One even wrote he would “become a deep sea diver just so (I) could go in the oceans of the world and get out all the trash.”

Many of the children wrote about putting an end to bullying, less crime, making “right” choices and getting more food for those who need it. One wanted those people who “mess up the world to have to fix it.” Several children wanted the proverbial money tree to grow in their backyards (wonder where they heard that from?) so they could then buy clothes for people who needed it or fix houses for those who didn’t have any. I even read a line that made me laugh from my head to toes: “I would give hair to bald people and hobo’s homes.”

“If I had 100 days to change the world, I would make the world cleaner and nicer. No one would litter. There would be trash cans everywhere people go. And everyone would be nice to one another. They would not call each other names or say mean words or make fun of one another,” wrote one boy. This little boy gets it; it is that simple isn’t it? Be nice to others and throw out your trash.

And then I read: “If I had 100 days to change the world, I would want my Aunt to still be alive. So to do that I would invent a medicine that makes people with cancer feel better.”

Children see the world so very clearly, without the filters and judgments and baggage with which we see it. When asked how to change the world, they knew quite clearly what they want to do. Without hesitation or much prompting, they have all the answers — and how great it would be if we just try.

I know that I cannot change the world in 100 days, but I am certainly left with some good food for thought. What are we leaving our children and future generations? Can we, just you and I, really make changes that would impact their lives?

I certainly don’t have the answers, and, unfortunately, I do have the filters and baggage that make me quite skeptical. But if each and every one of use just tried to throw out our trash and be nice to others, we might just have a chance. These lessons are now ours to relearn; as my mother always said, “Out of the mouths of babes.”

A Yankee with a Southern soul, Gillian Pollock is a wife, mother of two ever-challenging children and director of Christian Formation at Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church in Washington.