We do not have the answer.
We suspect such truths lie in perspective and personal experience, both of which are influenced heavily by individual subjectivity. In other words, everybody’s got an opinion.
As do we.
But ours may be a little different. Two case studies — for lack of a better term — defend our judgment.
We spoke of one just a few days ago. It involved the students at Hopewell Elementary School who have completed a fundraising project on behalf of the Run Now Relay. As the winding journey by 26 members of Cleveland’s running community unfolds from our modest Southeast Tennessee hamlet to big city Boston, the youngsters at Hopewell soon will be following their route daily and will incorporate various physical fitness activities in their gymnasium to match a theme closely tied to each town the runners come upon.
For example, when the runners reach Knoxville, the Hopewell fitness theme will be football in honor of the UT Vols; when they arrive at Bristol, the school’s fitness activities will revolve around speed or pace or motion in recognition of the Bristol Motor Speedway. Others will follow.
In short, the kids at Hopewell are tying into their community by emulating the good deeds of the Run Now Relayers; and, they are helping other children from a distant state through two respected nonprofits in Boston — Dream Big and the One Step Ahead Foundation.
At Hopewell Elementary, this is what is right with our kids today.
In a neighboring school, three fourth-grade classes at Park View Elementary have gone their own extra mile. These youngsters recently learned the value of feeding the hungry.
Those well-versed in the Scriptures might recognize this paraphrase, “... a child shall feed them.” The words were used in a front-page article by Cleveland Daily Banner staff writer Brian Graves and their relevance was beyond reproach.
Stepping up to a call for action in support of a classmate (Christian Armstrong) and his family (father Bob, mother Kristi and sister Lindsey), the fourth-graders spent part of a school day bagging more than 300 lunches that would be used by the family’s new nonprofit, The Family Kitchen, which feeds the homeless and the hungry in Cleveland every Saturday.
The idea is credited to fourth-grade teacher Kelly Fox who was inspired by the Armstrong family’s volunteer work at the school and within the community.
Part of the teacher’s focus — in partnership with the reading, writing and arithmetic of the school’s academia — has been to expose these young students to ways they can make a difference in their community.
According to the instructor, youngsters this age don’t always understand the impact they can make on others around them. So Fox and her teaching colleagues (Holly Edwards and Sara Weatherford) designed a plan to make it happen. It involved food donations brought to school by the kids, and then a makeshift set of assembly lines in which the sanitary-gloved youngsters bagged the lunches donated to The Family Kitchen.
The kids took it to heart.
On the day of the project, Fox told our newspaper, “I had a student get off the bus this morning and said, ‘I told my mom I’m not feeling good, but I wasn’t going to miss today. I wanted to be here today.’”
That’s what it’s all about.
Call it what you will. Conviction. Dedication. A desire to please. A willingness to emulate the good work of another; in this case, The Family Kitchen.
With such commitment — at whatever age — comes emotion. Kristi Armstrong, the mom who supported her teenage daughter’s desire to launch The Family Kitchen and who watched as the Park View fourth-graders unveiled their miracle, told our newspaper, “It warms my heart because I know there are some of the kids here that probably need some of these lunches. And, to see them bring in something they might really need for themselves just really gets to me.”
Even at such a tender age, these youngsters can serve as their brother’s keeper.
What’s wrong with kids today? Whatever the answer, we see far more right than wrong.
But don’t take our word for it. Look instead to the activities at Hopewell and Park View Elementary, and the students who are redefining community service.
Rest assured, it is not limited to these fine schools. They are but two. We need only to look around and within the Cleveland and Bradley County school systems, and their parochial counterparts.
There, we will find good deeds of the heart whose endearing touch is not relegated to the pages of a textbook.
There, we will be given our answer.
It is one we have known all along.