The Kids are Alright

On Friday, May 22, my nephew Hunter tuned two. It leaves me in disbelief that time is passing this quickly. This year was especially special and quite sentimental for me as Hunter crossed the threshold from baby to boy; I have watched him grown into this beautiful, caring boy filled with life and so much love to share. I watch him build bonds, especially his bond with Emily that are so pure. Watching Hunter and Emily learn alongside one another, teach one another, share an indescribable and unbreakable love is something I simply cannot put into words (*plus it’s a story for another time). For those of you who don’t know, Emily is my sister who has Down Syndrome. To much of the world, this is all they see, not Emily but a disability and they miss out on so much. Hunter sees Emily as she is, he sees her as his aunt who loves him in an explosive manner, he sees brilliance, he sees resilience and a beautiful person who has so much to give and share with those around her. He sees Emily as I see Emily, as someone who naturally has a radiant influence on those around her that you and I will spend a lifetime trying to achieve, someone who’s presence in the world is a blessing and who makes each day worthwhile. Hunter reminds me that children have a purity about them, they are not impacted by the judgements this world holds, the perceptions and preconceived notions of others, these children don’t discriminate based on our looks or perceived abilities. Children hold an unconditional love that we are lucky enough to witness and experience.
It’s the simplicity of a child’s heart which maintains it’s purity.

Last week I spoke about individuals who have pursued initiatives spreading love and equality in our world. I think so often we believe our ability to impact the world around us is tied to age or status, we maintain a belief that we can only have substantial impact if we build a life that allows us to do so. When we maintain this lens in our life we miss out on this simplicity of love and giving. Our ability to give and spread love has no limits, there are no barriers. I have spoken about small acts of kindness we can maintain in our daily routine and initiatives that exemplify a dedication to those around us. Today I want to look at the children and how they merge all these concepts in the most pure and simple manners. These children are breaking down barriers in order to share joy and ease the worries of others. Children are proving that it’s not our status in life or what we as individuals have to give but rather what love we wish to pour into this world and the hearts of those around us.

Today I want to do just as we did last week, get inspired! Yet, this time it’s the kids that are teaching us. So often we think we offer a wealth of knowledge to children yet isn’t it true that they have so much to teach us?

“While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about”
– Angela Schwindt

Let us begin right here in New England!
A young girl, Chelsea, in Danbury Connecticut had a lifelong dream at age 5 to begin her own charity. She consistently requested her parents begin ‘Chelsea’s Charity’ and for her 10th birthday this wish came true! For her birthday in August 2019, Chelsea asked attendees to donate art supplies rather than bring gifts to her party. Chelsea used these donations to send out her first 40 art kits to a homeless shelter in NYC. From there, her parents supported her by setting up an Amazon wishlist for the donations to continue. In her first six-months, Chelsea provided nearly 1,000 art kits to children in foster care, homeless shelters, women’s shelters and schools impacted by gun violence. Chelsea’s mom would take her around locally to hand-deliver art kits allowing Chelsea to interact with these children, Chelsea will share what has made art important to her and sometimes everyone will do some art together. Chelsea shares her story of how art helped her cope with a significant trauma at age 8 and Chelsea knew that other children have experienced their own trauma and art should be more accessible to help them cope as she was able to. Chelsea states “my dream is to meet every kid in the entire world and give them art. Who knows, maybe if we do that and then our kids do that, we’ll have world peace!”
Art Therapy is utilized for young children in order to support the development of healthy coping skills, identification of emotion and communication. Chelsea has said “art helps me communicate when I can’t express myself, art is my voice”. COVID-19 has created it’s own trauma on us as human beings. Never have we experienced life as we do today. Children are not able to access resources they typically would have available to them, primarily through school. For the children living already in high-stress environments, this new reality has had an even larger impact. I’ve spoken about adults experiencing homelessness and the significant impact this has on our sense of self, security, worth, the fears and emotions that coincide with this experience. To be a child experiencing homelessness it is all these things and more. For children living in abusive homes, those adjusting to foster care, these children often enter systems with nothing to call their own. They can feel faceless and undervalued, the love is missing. Chelsea’s art kits provide these children with an outlet, a safe and creative way to process their emotions around the trauma being experienced, artwork supports engagement in conversation and building trust. The art kits are also given to each child therefore it is something they can call their own while bringing life to their creations. This fosters hope. This is so essential for a child to have something that truly belongs only to them. While there are so many therapeutic benefits to these kits, there is also simple joy. While children need outlets they also need joy and the feelings of childhood freedom.
Let’s go back to the basic premise here. Chelsea, at 5-years-old decided she wanted to give back to others. At five we don’t own property, we don’t have high paying roles in the world, we don’t have status. What we have at five-years-old is a heart, a beating heart that radiates love. What children often don’t have is access. Children are unaware of some barriers this world may hold, after all the naivety of children makes them beautiful, however not Chelsea. Chelsea held onto a lesson taught by her parents that not all children will have access to what she has, therefore she must care for her belongings. A lesson most parents teach us as children, take care of what you’re given, be grateful, etc. Chelsea held onto this, she couldn’t imagine that other children wouldn’t be able to experience the joy that art brings to her. So what did, then ten-year-old Chelsea do? She bridged the gap, she created access. If Chelsea, between the ages of five and ten years old can identify a need, bridge the gap and spread love throughout our nation, why can’t we? Why do we find ways to remove ourselves from giving? Seeing children as deserving of love and opportunity, and acting on this, it’s quite simple.
Check out Chelsea’s Charity here http://chelseascharity.com

“Art is a place for children to learn to trust their ideas, themselves, and to explore what is possible”

– Maryann F. Kohl

Brawny Paper Towels started a campaign as more than a paper towel company. They called it “Nominate a Giant” with a statement that strength lies in the actions we take. Brawny hoped to celebrate and spread awareness for support individuals who took matters into their own hands, tackling our worlds challenges head-on.
So let’s head down to Maryland. I may have found my own personal hero in this world and that is Cavanaugh Bell. Also beginning at age 5, Cavanaugh is simply a child not taking no for an answer, he was frustrated by adults telling him he was too young to get involved in things. Cavanaugh’s website states it is “Powered by: Love & Positivity” – it really doesn’t get better than this, the site itself is called coolanddope.com. Cavanaugh speaks of being someone who was bullied during his elementary years, he took this darkness and transitioned it to a light he hopes to use to change this world, and he is truly not just spreading light but he himself is a light in this world that can have so much darkness. Cavanaugh’s website is covered with positivity and statements that are kid-friendly in order to allow children to feel as though kindness and giving are the cool thing to do. Cavanaugh believes that change starts not at the top as we always hear, but rather at the bottom with our youngest leaders. So the premise is that if we build up our youngest leaders we are investing in our future, Cavanaugh has my vote.
Cavanaugh is doing much more than being kind and cool, he has lobbied lawmakers, educators, policymakers, parents, and students to raise awareness, challenge them to use their voices, and speak truth to power in order to make actions happen. Cavanaugh speaks regarding bullying prevention, he himself gives motivational speeches inspiring social action, he creates educational resources (for parents and educators) and he supports other youth who have survived bullying through outreach and advocacy. Primarily Cavanaugh is a ‘dope human who loves all other humans’. We could all serve to be a bit more like Cavanaugh.
Cavanaugh wants children to be more accessible to opportunity to give-back to their local communities rather than be told they are too young. Cavanaugh states he is always looking for positivity creators to join the Cool & Dope movement. I think this is what breaks Cavanaugh apart for me. Not only does he want to do this work but he wants everyone to do this work, he sees the power in numbers and community. Thus far, Cavanaugh has made incredible progress. His achievements through this work include getting 02/21 recognized as ‘Bullying Awareness Day’ in Gaithersburd, MD, having October designated as Bullying Prevention Month in Montgomery County, MD, he has received a Certificate of Congressional Recognition from House of Representatives David Trone as well as a State Citation from State Senator Cheryl Kagan.
Amid COVID-19 Cavanaugh has redirected his efforts. Again we see a child identifying a need as well as a gap in access and bridging it. Cavanaugh has already proved to be brilliant and innovative and has an amazing support team and even more so there’s purity that the ideas are all his own. Once again we return to a singular concept, giving. Have I mentioned that Cavanaugh is only 7-years-old?! Most recently, amid the pandemic, Cavanaugh spent his savings to create Coronavirus Care Packages for seniors in his community. As Brawny stated “you don’t have to be big to be a giant”, they supported his development of a community pantry by donating paper towels to his cause. Cavanaugh has added this cause to his website, at this time he has a full pantry for use in the community. Just re-read that, a 7-year-old child has created a fully stocked community pantry to support the elderly and those in need amid COVID-19. I have no words. Go check-out Cavanaugh’s mission here http://coolanddope.com

“There’s nothing more pure than an innocent child’s smile. It’s just so radiant with unadulterated happiness”

Today’s Tuesday Takeaway is another emotionally grueling piece. I feel so strongly about these children who have the purest hearts and generous souls. These children are identifying needs and filling the space. They are accessing resources, doing research and developing support across the country. It is such a beautiful thing to see kindness in action and for this week it shows us that it’s not what money we have to donate it’s what is in our hearts and what we stand to give of ourselves to this world.
I hope you have a beautiful day and feel the joy radiating out of these children, as I did.
Always, S

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