We all remember what it was like to be a kid. The world is different. When you’re a kid you’re imaginative, open-minded, curious, and most importantly kind. Children seem to have a naturally sunny disposition that can soften the heart of any cranky adult. That’s why it’s such a shame that children don’t often receive the kindness they give in return.
This wasn’t something I gave much thought to until a few years ago I when worked as a volunteer at a summer reading camp for kids.
I was staying out of town and decided to sign up so I can do something constructive with my time. It was my first time volunteering, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Little did I know it would turn out to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life?
I had fun working with the kids, of course, but the experience taught me a valuable life lesson that I’ll never forget. It taught me the importance of showing kindness and compassion to children. Each child was different and they were all so fun, but some of their stories were simply heartbreaking.
Up until that time, I wasn’t really aware of the shocking lack of kindness that a lot of children experience. I had seen news stories and documentaries about the atrocities that many children face, but it doesn’t become a reality until you see it for yourself.
For instance, there were 2 sisters who were around 8 and 10. They had both struggled with reading, and one of them even had to repeat a grade. When I first met them they were often sad and had absolutely no interest in reading. So I decided to find out more about them and get some insight into their current malaise.
They revealed that they wished their mom paid more attention to them. They felt neglected because their mom had different boyfriends over the years and went out a lot. Their depression caused them to lose focus in school and act out at home.
Another girl felt like she didn’t have any support when it came to what she really wanted to do. She admired the way I was coloring and drawing during one of the activities and wanted to learn my techniques. She told me she had always dreamed of being an artist when she grows up, but she didn’t think she could because her grandmother considered it a waste of time.
So instead, she had to take piano lessons, which she hated. Just like the other girls, her feelings of resentment and sadness led to rebellious behavior and low grades.
Thinking of kids so young being so depressed was a harsh reality to acknowledge. After getting to know them, I felt motivated to encourage them and make them feel better about themselves. Every day I, along with the other volunteers, let them know that they had what it takes to read. We let them know that they are unique and that they should follow their dreams.
By the end of the reading camp, the children had gone through an incredible transformation. They were all excited to read, more confident, and actually excited to go back to school. I could hardly believe it! These were the same kids that started the reading camp feeling unmotivated and defeated.
Witnessing this change in them made me realize what an impact kindness can have on a child. Children are more vulnerable to the negative influences of the world, yet we somehow overlook them when we get caught up in our own lives. Kids can easily fall victim to negative thinking, and they need support and guidance more than anyone else.
That is why it is imperative that we show them kindness. Not just for their benefit, but so they can learn from the impact that kindness has had on their own lives. These are the lessons we need to continuously instill in them.
It may sound cliché, but the children really are our future. They will be the ones running the show eventually, and kindness is a necessary component for pushing the world in a more positive direction. Next time you have the opportunity, show a child kindness. It will be one of the greatest impacts you make.