Deborah Hearn Smith: What the kids on the block learned this summer

Deborah Hearn SmithAs the summer of 2019 comes to a close, it’s a good time to reflect. The collective anxiety level of the nation is intense. Mass shootings, crimes against our vulnerable children, the preponderance of hate—these topics seem to consume the national and local news.

It’s hard to keep positive and hopeful, but we must. So I looked for the good of the summer. How will the summer of 2019 be remembered?

I chose to see it through the eyes of the children on my block. I am lucky to live in an area of the city that still has small-town values. There are 12 children on the block and most are ages 5 to 11.

So what did they learn this summer? First, that playing outdoors can last all day, the best games include the entire group, and the rules can be adapted to make sure everyone has a fair chance.

They learned adults care and they see everything—even when you don’t see them, they are watching. And with new technology, all the parents are watching on the closed Facebook page. So your antics arrive home before you do. The adults on the block are a united front.

The children learned you can stay close to home and have great adventures. Public parks with splash features are within walking and biking distance.

The highlight of the summer—more anticipated than Christmas—is the annual block party. The children are up and out no later than 8 a.m., and the fun and food is nonstop. There are some organized activities, but most of the fun comes from the imagination of the group. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are provided by everyone. One neighbor fries his freshly caught fish from Lake Michigan. We catch up on the happenings of each family after a long winter.

As night approaches and the fire pit appears, the conversation gets livelier as adults engage in civil conversation. Children see the example of real neighbors and the way we can discuss, talk, disagree and still respect and care for one another. Midnight comes, the fire dies, and all retreat to their homes.

The summer continues with this spirit of community. On the Fourth of July, it was only natural that all worked cooperatively to put the fireworks show together. No one told the children to do this; it was a lesson learned over a summer of cooperative play.

Why discuss such an ordinary summer? Nothing exciting happened, but much can be learned from the kids on the block.

They are a diverse group who see their differences but value one another for who they are. What a concept for our adult leaders.

They have games and rules, but they adapt and change them to give everyone a fair chance. Older, more skilled children understand the younger, less skilled might need a hand up.

They also learned that, when they pooled their resources, everyone had more. Whether a bike, scooter, fireworks or snacks, everyone won when they shared.

This all happened in the summer of mass killings and an uptick in race hatred, when the country of a person’s birth was a weapon against acceptance. We heard, “Go back to where you came from.” All during this time, the kids on my block lived in the true spirit of the American Dream

Hats off to the kids on my block. Bless the children and let them lead us to a better day.•


Smith is former CEO of the Girl Scouts of Central Indiana. Send comments

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