Thursday, February 20, 2014

"You may think I'm not powerful, but I am very powerful."

It is not easy to be a little kid.  There is a lot that cannot be done when one is six years old and barely four feet tall.  That being said, what can be done is incredible.

My husband, parents, in-laws, and I are news watchers and don’t like to sit idly by when we see something we don’t like.  Since their births, our girls have been involved.  Our older daughter was born in the middle of the Orange Revolution and was included in her grandfather’s book which chronicled the events of the revolution.  You could say she was born into political consciousness and fighting for social justice.

At four years old, she decided she wanted to help other little kids in Pakistan and Afghanistan after she learned they needed more school supplies.  Her preschool did a penny drive for Pennies for Peace, but she wanted to do more.  She set up a lemonade stand during my mother’s garage sale.  Filled with a sense of importance and power, she approached every person and told them why they needed to buy lemonade from her, showing them a poster she put together with help from her grandmother.  Penny by penny, nickle by nickle, she raised several dollars and sent them off with a feeling of real accomplishment.

Now it is her little sister’s turn to change the world.  Last year when I shaved my head to raise money for children’s cancer research with St Baldrick’s Foundation, my younger daughter said she wanted to participate, too. At the time her father and I thought she was too young.  We were worried about the physical discomfort of it for her as well as questioning whether or not she fully understood what the event was about. To her credit, she didn’t forget about it or lose focus.  For the last year she has been talking about shaving her head as she watched my hair grow back.  When her school started talking about St Baldrick’s this year, she instantly said she wanted to be a shavee.  We told her to think about it for a couple weeks before we would sign her up.  Again, we wanted to be sure she really knew what she was doing.  We had a lot of conversations about it, and she made a pro and con list. In the end, the only negative she could come up with was her uncertainty about what the actual shaving will feel like.  After her father test buzzed a patch behind her ear, she was 100% ready to go.  We signed her up, and she set her first goal.  “What did you raise, Mama?  I’ll raise more than you.”  She did! In less than 24 hours she reached her first goal of $420. She created a video so she could tell people herself why she was going to shave her head (and compare herself to a Dalek). In less than 48 hours, she passed her second goal of $806.  She has continued to raise more every day since then.

The coolest thing?  It doesn’t surprise her.  She assumed people would want to help children with cancer.  She assumed her voice would be powerful enough to draw people to her cause.  When I told her she hit her first goal, she looked me square in the eyes and said, “I want to raise more.”

This feeling of power is not a selfish power.  She is powerful in her ability to help others.  She wants to raise money for someone else, for children with cancer and for their families who are sad. This sense of power and responsibility spills over into other areas as well.  The girls understand that their actions affect others and that they have a responsibility to contribute positively to their community.  This affects how they treat their classmates and teachers.

We want our kids to be kids and have carefree lives, however we also want them to feel that they can use their voices, that their voices deserve to be heard, and that they should try to fix things when they see injustice.  I do worry about burdening them with too much social responsibility and too much knowledge of the evils of the world.  We heavily filter what info they get from the news.  For example, as we have been glued to the news coming from Ukraine (my husband’s home country), we have only told them basic information.  They know people have died and are being hurt and that Kyiv is on fire, but they don’t know about the torture or see the pictures.  We constantly assure them that their grandparents and other relatives are staying safe.  We show them their grandfather on the news safe and sound to add extra comfort and peace of mind.  Still, they care and want to help.  My younger daughter very seriously put her spoon down during breakfast this morning to tell me, "I want to go to Ukraine. I want to go and find the bad guys and tell them to stop hurting Ukraine. I'll say, 'God loves you and you are supposed to not hurt people.' I really want to go and help the people." I told her we couldn’t go to Ukraine right now, and she glared at me a bit.  Later she asked how much longer till she shaves her head.  I answered three more weeks and she replied, “good.  Then I have time for Ukraine.”  It is certainly tricky trying to keep them in the loop without feeding them too much info or causing too much worry.  Because, in terms of the Ukraine situation, she seems to have set her mind on being a hero again, we will have to come up with a way for her to feel she is using her powers once more.  And then, hopefully, she can spend some time just playing with her Legos or having snowball fights.

If at six years old she has already taken on fighting cancer and an Eastern European bloody regime, what more will she do as she gets older?  And how much can the two girls together accomplish?  And how much can the world change if more little girls embraced the power they have?

Want to help her "save little kids and make their families happy"?  You can donate here

*Update* Since she couldn't go to Ukraine is person, Yaroslava sent a message instead.  She made cards for her grandfather to share with people there, and she created this video for them.

Пісня Ясі для людей в Україні from Alex Yanevsky on Vimeo.

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