One of my favorite times in the Bring Smiles to Seniors program is when we have sent a batch of cards out to the schools and they come back with the students messages written inside. Most of our cards come from elementary age children, although we do have high schools and colleges involved as well. We have to read every card for appropriateness and it is very rare that we ever have to pull a card. When we do, it is usually because there is a message that may mean one thing to a child who means well, but would be taken differently by a senior receiving it. Getting a message that says “I hope you don’t die tomorrow” may not exactly be the way a senior wants to start their day.
When we deliver cards to the schools the question we are asked most often is what should the children write inside? Our answer is always the same. Let them use their imagination and creativity and write what ever is in their heart. Ninety-nine percent of the time the messages that come back are exactly what a senior needs to hear. Children innately get the need and channel the innocence that they still posses into messages that are heartwarming, genuine and pure.
There is only a certain amount of time that children get to enjoy that age of innocence before the world and people start to shape them into who they want them to be, rather than allowing them to carry that innocence on into their own lives. How often do we force them into sports, dance , arts or other activities simply because it is what we wanted for ourselves, but never had the opportunity and now want to live vicariously through them. Rather than let them blossom and grow into who they truly are, we mold them into what we want them to be. In the process we place unneeded pressure that causes that innocence that they were naturally born with to disappear.
When we read childrens’ messages we are hearing their true heart. The compassion and understanding that they convey at such an early age is truly a wonder to behold. When I am in classrooms speaking to students and I ask them how many know what a nursing home or assisted living facility is, many hands go up. It is far more likely that a child will have a relative associated with one of these communities today more than at any time in other generations. There are more of them, more people in them and it is only going to grow as the baby boomer generation ages. That also means that the need that we now strive to meet is only going to get larger.
The connection between seniors and children is powerful. That is why we have, from the very beginning of the program, made connecting the circle of life our mission. Nothing can bring a smile to a senior faster than a note or a visit from a child and we are tapping into that power to drive change. In doing so children learn, seniors smile and at the end of the day we have accomplished our mission. If we continue to let children speak from their heart and be who they are, the world will continue to be a beautiful place.
Have a great day and remember to be the reason someone smiles.