A new school year is upon us and nostalgia’s knocked me out yet again. Every year this is when the speedy passage of time especially strikes and gives me pause. Whenever I tell anyone with grown children, they listen, unfazed, and say matter-of-factly,“It’ll only go faster.”
Now I even feel nostalgic when I see my friends’ kids, whether it’s in the flesh or when they post the first day of school photos that have been making the rounds on Facebook. Who is that young woman, a mere memory of the pig-tailed, mommy’s helper sibling from our infant playgroup days? And who is that young man with facial hair, towering over his mom when only yesterday he stood at her hip?
I’ve recently realized I’ve been focused on civilizing my children the first chunk of their lives. If it’s not toilet training or teaching them why they shouldn’t run up the park slide when others are waiting at the top, it’s been reminders not to talk with their mouths full or to get thank you notes out in a timely manner.
When my two oldest children flew by themselves to visit grandparents this summer many people asked, “Aren’t you worried?” I knew they were physically safe. For one thing children under 13 are still required to have a guardian escort them to and from the gate. My only minor, fleeting thought was whether they’d give the flight attendants a bad time or disrupt their on-flight neighbors. It was a good feeling to know with confidence they’ve transitioned into young gentlemen.
Yet now I’m focused on whether they have their priorities straight. Are they compassionate? Are they kind? These are characteristics that may be innate in some, but for most of us they are learned through experience.
I’d been thinking about our larger community of kids in El Dorado Hills and this issue when, serendipitously, I covered two stories this week that showed young people at their best. Oak Ridge partnered with the El Dorado County Food Bank to bring awareness that some people in our neighborhoods struggle to get food for their families. The leadership students I spoke with are wise beyond their years and fun, but more notably they are kind and patient.
And Hands 4 Hope-Youth Making a Difference finally has its own headquarters. El Dorado Hills mother and founder, Jennifer Bassett, formed the service organization after an epiphany when her sons were focused on not having the latest gaming device. “I decided I wanted my boys to grow up to be compassionate, caring individuals who look beyond themselves and strive to make this world a better place whether through little acts of kindness or big outreach projects,” she told me for this story.
Five years later, Bassett’s vision now involves 1,200 other young people and when I interviewed some of them they were nothing short of delightful.
One thing is striking about the organization’s mission and their goals, however. Hands 4 Hope has scores of student volunteers, but they don’t have enough adult mentors to oversee all of the great things they want to accomplish. In hearing this, the answer to my question: How to raise genuinely caring people became clear: it starts with me.
It starts with other adults, too. Adult mentors from Rolling Hills Church, Oak Ridge and the Food Bank helped the students at Oak Ridge, for example. Their positive guidance and support helped the student planners soar in making the outreach project a success. This also happens on youth sports fields, in youth groups, in classrooms and wherever there are adult mentors, everyday. How parents instill in their own homes on a daily basis what it means to be a kind person is just as vital.
Yes our kids may be growing up before our eyes, and sometimes they may act like they may not need us, but the opposite is actually true. Newly civilized kids, not just our own, need our help to understand they have the power to change the world.
Julie Samrick is the mother of four children and a resident of El Dorado Hills. Email her at [email protected]