When you want to see the good through the bad, when you want to truly experience positivity in a world of judgment and negativity, always talk to a child.
Kids have this amazing sense of optimism. Their untainted outlook on life can be a refreshing reminder that there is good in this world.
Last month, I wrote about the Oct. 2 shooting during a Las Vegas concert, a horrific act that killed nearly 60 people and injured more than 400. As the media reported on the lives lost, it also shared heartwarming stories of those who stepped up to rescue victims and tried to save lives. These heroes served as a reminder that there is still so much good in this world.
My column sparked a conversation with Northampton Area Middle School teacher Lacey Snyder, who was looking for a collaborative writing project for her English students. We decided to ask the students to write about thankfulness and finding good in people. Snyder wrote to me last week to say their completed work was outstanding, and she was having a difficult time choosing which pieces would be published in The Press. It’s no wonder Snyder struggled with her choices. These students are testaments to children’s ability to see good and do good.
(If you’re reading this in the Catasauqua, Northampton or Whitehall-Coplay Press, you’ll find the students’ work below. If you’re a subscriber to another Press edition, you can find the essays at thenorthamptonpress.com.)
Middle school student Ava Cascario wrote of misplacing money given to her by her father during a carnival. While she was frantically searching for it, a girl approached her with the found cash.
Ava said her father was so thankful to the girl, he gave her a few of the dollars to show his appreciation for her kindness.
“That girl changed me by showing me that you can help someone out even if you don’t know them or if you don’t like them,” Ava wrote. “Even if you are feeling down yourself, you can still help someone in need, and they might help you in return.”
Brayden Rader titled his essay “The Good in People.” He wrote of a camping trip to the beach and the help of strangers after a branch fell on his family’s camper and damaged its roof.
“On our way home, I couldn’t help but think about all of those strangers that helped us when they didn’t have to. But they helped us because they care about people and their safety,” according to Brayden. “Even with all the bad that has been happening in our world, there are a lot of really good people that care about everyone.”
Zachary Hepner wrote about one of my favorite acts of kindness to strangers — paying it forward in the coffee line. I happily related to his story, as every Friday morning, my daughter and I stop at Dunkin’ Donuts on the way to school. Each holiday season, I pay the bill for the person behind me in the drive-thru line. We look forward to it each week, and I’m always hopeful that the “pay it forward” gesture continues throughout the day.
Zachary and his mother had a similar experience at Starbucks.
“It is the little things that we should pay attention to in life,” Zachary wrote, “for it’s the little moments that make life so great in the midst of the bad.”
Rachael Moss recalled a time she and her father were having breakfast in a diner. The waitress complimented her on a doodle she created while waiting for her food. She was inspired to create another piece of artwork to leave on the table for the waitress.
“The compliment from that waitress was an inspiring thing,” according to Rachael. “If stories of kindness were shared more often, I have no doubt that more people would be inspired to relay the kindness.”
Abby Loch wrote about her great-uncle’s selflessness in donating a kidney to her grandfather, who had been diagnosed with cancer.
“We were so thankful for his generosity toward his brother,” Abby wrote. “I know that with as much bad in the world that there is also a huge amount of good in the world to balance it out.”
Lastly, Connor Kline relayed an experience in the grocery store with his grandmother. He had asked for candy; his grandmother said she would give him some when they got home. A man behind them in line handed him a candy cane originally intended for his own grandson.
“We do need to focus on all the good things in life no matter how small they are,” Connor wrote. “We should all try to do at least one good thing for someone everyday and be grateful for all the good things we receive.”
My thanks to Snyder and her students for such beautiful prose — and gentle reminders — in this season of thankfulness and giving.