What will we do when they want to change the world?
Last week my 9-year-old daughter shared a big dream at bedtime. In the midst of expressing angst about homework, she suddenly asked, Why cant I just take a year off school and go live where kids dont get to go to school and teach them? I could do that.
Compelling argument! And incredible dream. But what am I supposed to do with it?
As a parent I hear my kids wants and hopes all the time. I mean ALL the time. Every now and then something emerges amid the small stuff that is truly inspirational. Something outside themselves. Something like teaching kids in majority-world countries how to read.
At those points I remind myself that we have a great responsibility to help our kids navigate their hopes and dreams for changing the world. Our friends Dave Livermore and Terry Linhart say it this way in their book What Can We Do?: Practical Ways Your Youth Ministry Can Have a Global Conscience:
This is the tension: Students will be motivated to make a difference when you expose them to the needs of the world. What will you do when they approach you with those dreams?
What I appreciate about the work of Livermore and Linhart is that they help us help young people see that sometimes our best hopes for other people are just that: OUR hopes for them. Not always their hopes for themselves. And without care, we can end up exploiting the very people we seek to help. Among the books suggestions for this process:
- Expose them to needs as well as to existing efforts to meet those needs.
- Listen well to their ideas, and encourage them to continue thinking outside of themselves and their own needs.
- Help them channel their excitement toward the hard work of actual response, including research and action.
- Let them organize it, and guide them in ways that promote awareness without over-glamorizing the cause in a way that exploits the people impacted.
- Keep long-term impact in view, both positive and negative impact, both globally and locally.
Whether you have a 9-year-old who wants to educate the world or a 16-year-old who is ready to bring clean water to the world, chances are you are hearing bits and pieces of big dreams. As we live in the tensions, lets help kids steward those dreams well.
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