Trying to do good can be tough. It can feel as if you have been asked to rebuild a beach one grain of sand at a time while a hurricane is raging all around you. Doubt. Frustration. Anger. Fear. Hopelessness. You wake up every morning determined to make a difference. To be the change you want to see in the world. To treat others the way you want to be treated. To show that light always triumphs over darkness. And then you look at the constant barrage of death, destruction, and terror that is occurring in seemingly every corner of the world. Horror that is unrelentingly marketed to us via our news feeds and the regular media and the talking heads to make us believe there is no hope. You think ‘Why bother? Why not just go back to bed and pull the covers over my head?’ And then they have won.
Anyone who is working to make the world a better place eventually hits a wall. Drowning, poverty, climate change, disease, human rights, ending violence, wildlife conservation, mental health, racism, sexism, the wealth gap, education, and so much more. A place where it seems hopeless. A day where David vs. Goliath is not a fight any sane person would choose. A day where the siren song of the forces you are fighting against starts to sound reasonable, almost desirable. It would just be so much easier to stop pushing for positive change. You’d have regular hours! Free time! No worries! And for the masses that continue to volunteer for good while working a ‘regular’ job, there would be health insurance, a steady salary, maybe even some retirement benefits! Besides, what can one person do against so much despair? It would be so much easier to just conform.
It’s Star Trek and assimilation by the Borg in real life. A brief struggle and then a pleasantly numb existence, because after all, the Borg goal is to raise the quality of life. So they say.
Why do so many people continue to push against overwhelming odds? Everyone has a reason, and often that reason is intensely personal. A reason formed by experience, education, and exposure. I believe that at the root of all these different reasons is children.
Children are hope. Children are the future. Children have the chance to be better people. Children deserve to live healthier and happier lives. It doesn’t matter if you have children or not, whether you go mushy over a newborn or think children should be seen and not heard, humans (and many animals) are hard-wired to protect children. Not just our own children, all children.
I believe it is because we all want to hope.
This morning, the video above belatedly crossed my news feed and viscerally affected me. Video footage of two-year old Ghina Bassam being frantically dug out of the rubble from yet another bombing in Syria. An agonizing six minutes elapsing before they reached the source of the crying and another two minutes before Ghina was freed. The story made international news, and attracted a huge number of views, far more attention than the over 200,000 Syrians that have been killed in the war or the 9 million refugees from the war. For me, this wasn’t one child, this was my child. This was every child. And every child deserves to be safe and cared for and loved.
I could use this opportunity to talk about the importance of telling the success stories, of marketing hope, when you want to change behavior. I could share the research that shows that people respond most to stories of one person, preferably a girl, to focus attention and direct emotion.
But I won’t.
Instead I encourage you to remember the hope that children embody when the struggle is overwhelming. I invite you to put one child’s face in your mind as you push for change. I remind you that even in refugee camps and war zones and after enduring horrific pain children can still smile and play. I urge you to keep pushing, keep fighting, keep protesting, keep marching, keep writing, keep speaking out, keep going – because all the world’s children need us.
“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” Nelson Mandela