Fifteen year-old Gitanjali Rao is the first child to be featured on the cover of Time magazine. This is an important breakthrough for our times, as we see more and more instances when children come up with innovations and create projects that change their communities. In this age, we are recognizing the miraculous power of instilling the values of helpfulness in children from an early age.
Rao is an inventor who has had an impact in fields of water pollution, opioid addiction, and cyberbullying. Time selected Rao from 5,000 applicants, all making a positive difference in their communities, and as Time says, “Every year there are more children to honor and thank.”
Reading about Rao, the takeaway isn’t to accelerate children’s academics but rather convince them that they can help. As a child, Rao says she had no “a-ha!” moment when she discovered she wanted to go into science, but rather an overriding feeling that she wanted to make others happy, to bring positivity and a greater feeling of community to the place where she lives.
Children can learn the satisfaction of being helpful at any age, if we notice and point out the effects of their efforts. “Setting the table helps me because I can pay attention to cooking.” “Calling Grandma helps her to know she’s not alone, and people care about her.” “Organizing your books makes the whole house feel brighter.” Putting energy into making children believe they are helpful is especially important at this time, when events related to the pandemic and the shutdown over the holidays can make them, and all of us, feel helpless.
To aid this effort, we are asking parents and teachers to give us photos of children being helpful in order to create a quick pre-holiday photo exhibit in our hallway for all to see before school closes. Eight-by-10 photos tend to show up the best. Let’s celebrate the potential of the children in our community to discover the power they have to aid others and eventually change the world around them.