It has felt of late that the world has gone a little mad. I mean truly. Terrorists plowing into crowded streets with trucks. Mass shootings that seem almost commonplace, anymore. Demonstrations for and against people, policies, and pipelines. (I work just minutes from the Dakota Access Pipeline brouhaha). I can hardly stand to view my social media newsfeed some days. There seems to be a lot of anger, angst, and unhappiness out there.
I sometimes allow myself to stand atop a hill of conjecture and look toward the future. What will the next ten, twenty, fifty years bring? What kind of world will my children and the grandchildren I do not yet know, inherit? Will they enjoy the same giddy freedoms and luxuries as I have enjoyed?
I will admit that in the dark closet of my deepest thoughts, I have wondered…
Today I regained a glimmer… no, a beacon of hope. Hope that the world is, indeed, in capable, sensible hands.
At the end of my school day, four beautiful, smiling, confident young women paid me a visit at my office. They are students at a local, private university, and members of an elite campus group, the Emerging Leaders Academy. I received an email last fall telling me that they had chosen Project Armchair for their service project.
They invited me to speak to their group on campus. October 31st, Halloween Day. I walked into a college classroom filled with young, eager, intelligent people. As I began to open my chest and lay my beating heart on the podium, those young adults listened with rapt attention. As I shared my passion for kids that suffer in one way or another, and the magic a book brings to brighten a day, they nodded, absorbing my every word. And when I was finished, they asked questions and wondered aloud what they could do to help.
These young Millennials do not match the angry stereotype that has filled my television screen as of late, and clogged my Facebook newsfeed.
They are passionate, yes. But passionate about the needs around them, minus the vitriol. Passionate about people. Eager to make a difference. And like me, they believe that the best way to bring about lasting change, and make an eternal, positive difference in the world around them, is to meet needs one person at a time. Build bridges of humanity that looks suffering square in the eye, and says, “I see you. I believe in you. I’m here to lend a helping hand.” You cannot legislate morality or kindness. It must spring organically from within the heart and soul of the individual.
What did they do? They went to work and organized a book drive at our local Barnes & Noble. They contacted the local television stations, who came out to interview them. They called parents, who called others. They printed flyers and pressed their advisors for advice.
And they did an amazing thing.
They brought seven brimming, beautiful boxes of brand new books to my office today. Over three hundred books. And a couple hundred dollars in gift cards as well.
They did it for the children in crisis that they had fallen in love with on Halloween day. The children who sometimes suffer terrible, unimaginable things. The children, who in spite of their circumstances, find something to smile about in the colorful pages of the books my volunteers read to them. The children that have stolen my heart. And now the hearts of an elite group of future leaders.
I hate to break it to you, University of Mary, but these students of yours are not emerging. They ARE leaders. They are changing their world as fast as the ideas and resources come to them.
They changed mine a little bit today.
I confidently hand the future to them. They will care for it well. They are my Gatekeepers of Hope.
I fully believe they will do great things…
P.S. And if you see Sarah K., give her a hug ;)