Kids get it. They really do.
How often do we listen to children? The answer to this question is perhaps the biggest takeaway I am taking home to Mexico tomorrow: not nearly enough.
Serving in a nonprofit whose reason for existing is the powerful drive to do anything in our power to improve the wellbeing of children has allowed me to design, implement, and evaluate youth empowerment projects. There is nothing quite like it. It redefines who you are. I can’t picture a setting where your very foundation does not shake after seeing a child’s awe when they realize they just packed over 300 suppers with their friends in one hour. It’s a micro-expression; a split second is all you get. It is powerful.
I have seen them. They leave the building with their chin up, a confident smile, and their chests strongly pushing forward. They look ready to take on the world. I cannot remember the last time I saw this reaction in an adult. I have seen honest surprise, but not that jovial and rare awe.
In 2011, while I was still a student of International Relations, I was touring a group of eight-year-olds around the university’s theatre. They stood on the stage and looked toward the empty 2,000 seats. I was looking at the theatre I knew like the back of my hand, but then I saw that split second reaction in them for the first time in my life.
“How many people do you think can fit in here?”, I asked.
“I’d say…”, a boy said while he stroked his invisible beard, “about 100,000 plus or minus”. Now that’s a theatre with capacity.
I could not be the same again after that evening. Every time I stepped into the stage I would remember the magical moment when this group of children, who had never been in a theatre before, saw those empty seats.
It’s the little things that get you, isn’t it? I think it is part of the deal we sign when we join the adulthood club that we must forget this very simple lesson. So much truth, yet we let it go in a sad rite of passage. Perhaps it’s the age playing a trick on us, forever distorting our vision and appreciation of the smaller details in life.
Today I would like to listen to children. Tomorrow sounds like a great day for it, too. I think it’s high time I stopped talking to children, and rather talk with them. My new year’s resolution is to converse with children, but listen more than I speak. They have so much to say, and we have so much to learn.
Children are amazing. They are the best human beings on this planet. Let us listen to their stories.