We showcase a lot of good here, a ton of causes and the tears, sweat, and everything that goes into making the world a better place. We also make a point of stressing that it starts with each of us, which, to be fair, may sound a bit cliché, but it’s true. And here’s something else to consider: there is no such thing as an unimportant cause—if it matters to you, it matters. Also, not doing enough only applies to doing nothing. If you are doing anything, then that is something. If you want to do more, great, but don’t let no time be the result of too little time. They are not the same thing. And when it comes to the kids, give them every ounce of encouragement and support you can muster. They want to do good, too, and sometimes all we need to do is let them.
This is where I introduce a personal example, namely, my son Atticus, and then brag about him to the point that you may grow uncomfortable. He’s a goofy kid in middle school, which may sound redundant, but he wears it like a badge of honor, and, frankly, I hope he always does. However, despite his being a star of silliness at home or in the safety of his friends, he is not comfortable in the spotlight. The moment it shines upon him he fades into the shadows as fast as the glow will let him. He does not seek it out, ever.
. . . if the results inspire cause for celebration, then by all means, celebrate!
Needless to say, when he came home one day and said that he wanted to start a club at school we were surprised. Founding a club is hard to do, and it usually involves some level of eye contact. Maybe a handshake.
Yet, he wanted to start a club regardless of any social apprehension that he personally may have felt. He saw a need and he needed to address it, even if doing so yanked him firmly out of his own comfort zone and put him squarely in the aforementioned spotlight.
The club in question, Students for the Protection of Animals in the Environment (S.P.A.E.), is exactly what it sounds like: the betterment of the planet and our collective health by ensuring the survival of every species—furry, scaled, feathered, or other. He wanted to start a club based in passion, love and empathy, attributes that he has in spades, for the thing he cares the most about, the treatment of animals.
Seriously, he’s been like that forever.
Granted, the club may not have the flash of your more prominent middle school social ventures, but there is no shortage of tween spirit. The kids that joined—and lots of them did—joined to do good. They joined because they saw a need, and with it, a kid willing to do something about it. That kid was my quiet, silly son, with a heart so big he just had to share it.
That’s the thing about kids, they’re pretty awesome. It’s easy to lose sight of that as society yells for them to turn down their music, pull up their pants, and get off their proverbial lawn. That’s on us.
Kids like to do good things, and, generally speaking, a lack of doing so isn’t always based in apathy, but rather rules steeped in grown-up ignorance. It’s hard for kids to get involved, because all too often kids are the recipients of good works (rightfully so), but not invited to participate in the acts that make good happen. Those doing the heavy lifting tend to view children as underfoot and in the way, a liability of insurance and safety, too small and too slow to add to productivity—none of it meant with any sort of malice (hopefully), but they have a job to do, and for some reason too many people think that kids can’t do it.
Fun fact: They can. Kids can do a lot of things if we just give them the chance. Sometimes they make their own chances.
But I’m not done bragging. First, due to his work with S.P.A.E. and other animal-centric activities, Atticus was recognized nationally by Crayons & Collars as the Pawsitive Impact Kids Award winner in 2015 for grades 7-9. He received a number of wonderful prizes from some great sponsors, including 5,000 bowls of Halo pet food from Halo, Purely for Pets and Freekibble.com. He donated the food to the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Control’s Agoura Animal Care Center (below), to help new pet owners, and, more importantly, their adopted animals, transition into safe, loving homes.
Second, as part of the S.P.A.E. our whole family participated with the club in the 2015 Walk for the Animals to support Farm Sanctuary. Atticus was the top youth fundraiser in Los Angeles, something that impressed the hell out of me, and got a “that’s cool” from him.
It probably goes without saying, but his mother and I are very proud, and not only because the club is a good one, doing great things, but because of the personal obstacles that he had to overcome to put the whole thing in motion (and keep it there). I suppose if there were a moral to this story—and it seems like most stories with animals have one—it is that kids can do whatever they set their mind to; and I hope you forgive me putting my son on this virtual pedestal for a moment, but that’s part of it, too. Kids may not do it for the glory, but if the results inspire cause for celebration, then by all means, celebrate. After all, the future isn’t going to save itself, and everyone loves a bit of good news.
A portion of this article first appeared in a piece I wrote for SmartyPants Vitamins.
Whit Honea is the co-founder of Dads 4 Change, the Social Media Director and Community Manager of Dad 2.0 Summit as well as a Senior Account Executive at the conference’s parent company: XY Media Group. Deemed “the activist dad” by UpWorthy (and one of the “funniest dads on Twitter” by Mashable), he is a regular contributor to The Modern Dads Podcast and the author of The Parents’ Phrase Book—a family guide to empathy.