To my little brothers and sisters, my future children, and children everywhere:
Though right now, I can still be considered a child and am only about a decade older than you, I have witnessed and experienced enough of the consequences of aging to declare myself an expert in this natural occurrence known as growing up.
As a generation that has grown up surrounded by the advancement of technology and the popularization of iPhones and wireless everything and anything, we have watched a global fight not just in respect to technology but to preserve excellence. It is true, America as a country has come a long way in the last decades. We have managed to overcome racial barriers and reformed gay rights significantly. We have demonstrated our rights to a functional democracy by exhibiting our right to protest and to speak freely. We have pushed limits to areas beyond what was ever thought possible. However, as politicians work feverishly and engage in never-ending debates in pursuit of “winning” the international competition for excellence, a looming tragedy is polluting our society: America’s inability to preserve innocence.
I recently started working at a local learning center. On one of my first days on the job, I was teaching a little girl how to read. She was struggling a great deal and so as I was trained to do, I employed the “I say you say” method, where I would point to words slowly and say them while the student repeats the word aloud back to me. It had been a long day, with a full day of school on terrible night’s sleep, and I had been tutoring for a couple hours already. As I had done for the rest of the words, I pointed to the word “help” and slowly read it to my student. To my surprise, rather than repeat after me casually like she had done for the rest of the story, she cheerfully shouted “HELP!” Startled, I asked her to quiet herself since we were in a large room with other students. Then, I looked down at where my finger was pointed and realized that what was printed was not “help.” but rather “help!” I left work that day with a new perspective on children and innocence. I discovered the awareness that children exhibit and how growing up inevitability takes the excitement and awareness in life away. I discovered the beauty of unadulterated innocence and the increasing need to protect it. I discovered that these children, with only one-fourth or one-fifth of years of life experience that I have had, could teach me so much about what it means to not just exist and coexist but to live and thrive.
In my transition from a child to a “young adult”, I observed an astounding transformation. I have watched silently and helplessly as my own innocence and the innocence of my peers be stolen from us by the illnesses of our world. With all the tragedies plaguing news outlets and social media today, I have learned to exist in a state of constant fear and worry.
Therefore, to children everywhere: You have taught me so much about what it means to be present everywhere, everyday and I promise to always stay true to who I am and find the simple beauties of daily life. With that, I urge you to protect your innocence, to grow up with class and creativity, and to never let anyone take the excitement in life away.
An experienced growing-uper.