This week I’ve been struck by some stories of young people responding to needs in ways that give me hope for the world (despite the actions of many adult leaders!).
Carver, a 5 year old in Oregon, heard about the heroic efforts of firefighters in his home state. He and his grandmother purchased supplies for a local drive to support them, and Carver decided that perhaps they would be cheered by a Baby Yoda doll. So he included it with a note saying, “Here is a friend for you, in case you get lonely. Love, Carver.” Needless to say, the toy was a hit, accompanying firefighters everywhere - they've posted photos of their escapades.
Cartier Carey is an 11 year old in Vermont who learned about the particular difficulties during the pandemic for single mothers who lost work and childcare options – and couldn’t afford diapers even when they became sporadically available. So he set up a lemonade stand to raise money to help – eventually purchasing over 22,000 diapers to give away.
Wyatt Jones is a teenaged worker at McDonalds in Waynesville, Ohio. A young mother with 3 tired and cranky kids got to the drive-through window to pick up her order from him, and realized that she had forgotten her wallet – so he reached for his and paid for their meal, refusing reimbursement when she returned later to thank him.
The report on Wyatt’s act was entitled, Random Act of Kindness, and my daughter Natalie pointed out that it wasn’t a random act. Those can make your day, such as when someone pays your bridge toll or Starbucks order. But what is striking about all three of these stories is that they were acts of empathy and solidarity, the result of paying attention to others and their needs.
The question “Who is my neighbor?” is what prompted Jesus to tell the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37). These three young people recognized as neighbors people in need who they didn’t know. Their responses were pure generosity – wonderful gifts to those who received them, but also building blocks for a better world. A famous neighbor, Fred Rogers, said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'”
Well, there are scary things in the news – so let’s look to these helpers, as well as the others around us. And let’s join them. Our response doesn’t have to be money or goods; sometimes what is needed by our neighbor is a smile, a phone call, a few extra minutes to listen or a thank-you.