My last blog was inspired by this article I read in the BBC News Magazine about a young boy who knew, at age 9, that he would someday save lives. He went on to become a leading medical scientist whose research has, in fact, saved lives.
From this article, I picked up a few tidbits of wisdom about how to encourage young kids to go after their dreams. Here are a few nuggets of gold I plan to put into practice with the young people in my own life:
1) Kids are thinking about the future. "Thousands of children wrote to the programme every week," said the article, and I realized that pretty much every child I know has an answer to "what do you want to be when you grow up?" Two of my nephews want to be pirates. One is already an accomplished artist. My pastor's youngest son already knows he wants to be a pastor. Another friend's elementary schooler wants to be a veterinarian. The list goes on.
2) Kids are impacted by how adults respond to their young ambitions. Says the article, "The response from then editor, Biddy Baxter, was 'fundamental' to his future, he now believes. She encouraged him to seek information for his idea from the family doctor. It was not so much the advice itself that left an impression on the boy. It was that whisper of encouragement that he gleaned from having received a reply at all, and that the letter did not dismiss his idea. "If her letter had shown any hint of ridicule or disbelief I might perhaps never have trained to become a medical scientist or been driven to achieve the impossible dream, and really make a difference to a human being's life," he says.
3) Experiences early in life often impact a child's ambitions. For the boy in this article, finding an injured bird and being unable to help it had a tremendous impact. After "putting it out of its misery," he began thinking a lot about death, which led to him wanting to figure out how to help heal people.
4) A brief, well-timed encouragment from an adult - even a stranger - can drastically affect the direction of a child's life. " If you had failed to reply, or had treated my letter as a joke (as perhaps others might have done) it could well have altered the course of my life. You had a very precious role to play in dealing with the many and varied child-minds presented to you and that important work is now being continued."
The next time a child trusts me with the announcement of what he/she wants to be when he/she grows up, I am going to take my part in their future seriously. Says the man in this article, "As adults we can tend to lose the capacity to dream and think big. Children will dream unselfconsciously. I still do that - I still go around telling people 'these are the things I want to do'. I don't have time for any kind of scepticism."
And neither do I.