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WAYNE YOUNG: Young voices hopeful, welcome

['Rebecca Schofield, shown in a photo from a GoFundMe set up in her honour, wants to spread some kindness.']
['Rebecca Schofield, shown in a photo from a GoFundMe set up in her honour, wants to spread some kindness.']

There’s reason for hope from a new generation that longs for a better world



At age 17, Rebecca Schofield learned she was losing her battle with brain cancer and that she had only months to live. But, oh, the living the Riverview, N.B., teen packed into her short life.

Hoping to make the world a better place, she asked her Facebook followers to perform random acts of kindness under the hash tag #BeccaToldMeTo. Across Canada and around the world, people responded, performing good deeds in her name.

In an online tribute, Darren Schofield talked about his daughter’s exceptional life, her exuberant enthusiasm, generous and kind heart, and boundless love.

“How amazing is it to have had a child that has truly reached out and touched the world around us.”

Rebecca died last weekend. She was 18.

In Florida and across the U.S. young people – many of them still grieving the senseless shooting of 17 people in a Florida school last week – are raising their voices to demand lawmakers pass stricter gun controls so they will be safe in their schools.

In a state dining room of the White House, some of them sat this week with President Donald Trump and implored him to acknowledge that guns are a problem and that they must be more tightly controlled.

The youth are trying to bring some common sense to the debate, and they’re vowing to fight for more sensible gun laws until their rallying cry – #NeverAgain – to end mass shootings in U.S. schools becomes a reality.

They certainly have decision-makers’ attention. Surely this time congressmen, senators and the president himself will act, but not by arming teachers, as the president clearly favours.

And finally, I was struck by a delightful story from CBC Charlottetown this week (as first reported in a letter to the editor in The Guardian) that shows how a much younger generation is learning about kindness and compassion. In a kindergarten classroom in Souris, a five-year-old girl innocently pointed out another girl’s shirt was on backwards. Embarrassed, the girl put her head down and some of her classmates started to laugh. But the observant teacher explained how embarrassing someone could hurt his or her feelings. Then she watched as first one child, and then almost everyone in the class put their own shirts on backwards. The girl who was the first to turn her shirt around said she didn’t want her classmate to be sad.

I couldn’t hope to express it better than substitute teacher Marie McGaugh who told CBC she felt blessed to see the remarkable act of kindness.

“We all get desensitized because you see things on the news that you would never have seen years ago. And these guys, they’re pure, they’re genuine . . . not a word was spoken. It was their actions that were just so powerful.

“They give you hope.”

Former South African president Nelson Mandela once said the children of today are the leaders of tomorrow. Kathy Calvin, president of the United Nations Foundation, goes even farther: “Young people aren’t the leaders of tomorrow. They are the leaders of today and tomorrow.”

Judging by these stories, there’s reason for hope from a new generation that longs for a better world – a world full of random acts of kindness, a world where children can feel safe in schools, movie theatres and concerts, a world where embarrassment and bullying are trumped by solidarity and support.

These young voices are so refreshingly welcome.

- Wayne Young is an instructor in the journalism program at Holland College in Charlottetown.

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