“These days all I want to do is to collect money for the poor,” said Lasse in fourth grade today. He gave me a content sigh. Ah,the joy of making a difference in the world when one is nine. So innocent and sincere. One day he will grow up and see that the world is more complicated than he thought, that it is run by policy and laws, greed and strategies, corruption and lies. For now though, he has simple solutions. Some friends can make toys, some can knit scarfs, some can sell stuff. All to help the children of Burma.
I spent the day at an elementary school here in Norway, speaking about Burma and Partners for six hours straight. Keeping the attention of first to sixth graders is a challenge of dimensions. It’s a thankful job though. If the world was run by this age groups we could go somewhere.
“I just don’t know why we can’s just shoot the general in the back so that he too can feel what it feels like to get killed,” suggested Vegar. “Well, could NATO just attack them?” was another question raised. Then: “What kind of weapon do you carry?” That my weapon is a simple Swiss Army knife did not excite.
Then we talked about landmines and what a mine sweeper is. The Encyclopedia of fifth grade stood up on his chair and declared: “A landmine is usually a victim-triggered explosive device which is intended to damage its target via blast and/or fragments.” Good to know. We shuddered at the thought of people being forced to be mine sweepers. Although a sixth grader informed me: “Some people actually want to die. They could be the mine sweepers.” I said that although some people want to die, they may not necessarily want to die by a land mine.
In second grade they were more concerned with the basics: “How do they wipe when they go to the toilets?”
In first grade they needed things to be simple. We talked about the mean guys and the nice guys. Then we had a good laugh at how much work it is to take a bath wearing a sarong.
One of the boys, Tobias, in fifth grade had celebrated his birthday last year and instead of gifts he had asked his friends to bring money that he could give to Partners. I had written him a letter to say thank you for such a generous gesture. Today he came up to me holding the letter in his hand. It was folded and worn. “Do you remember sending me this?” he asked. Of course I did. I remember writing him and telling him that he was a role model, and that he should aspire to stay a role model in his class, at his school, in his country.
It the end of the day one of the boys in first grade came up to me. He was one of the gentle ones that did not speak much during class, but who was as attentive as a hunting dog. He wanted to tell me something important: “I think you should become the queen of Burma,” he said.
I drove home feeling tired and fulfilled. Kids are something else. We think that we grow into maturity and wisdom. In a way that is true. But as we are maturing we are losing some of that enthusiasm and zeal that I saw in a few hundred kids today. Those kids really think that they can change the world. How many of us do?