“What’s your vision of the world?” The words hung in the air as my interviewee looked down at the table. “Do you know what a vision is?” I asked gently.
She nodded. “It’s what you dream the world could be, right?”
We were sitting at her kitchen table, papers strewn about from an earlier attempt at homework. Her mom was making dinner preparation noises in the kitchen, but I could tell that she was listening to this conversation.
Emily glanced at her mom, then looked back at me. I took that as a good sign that our conversation could continue.
“So what do you dream the world could be, Emily?”
This time she was ready. She leaned forward, looked me directly in the eyes, and said in a clear, strong voice, “We need to take care of the planet!”
A rather unusual answer for an eight year old.
“How do we take care of the planet?”
She never hesitated. “Recycle.” She sat back in her chair as if that one word solved all of the world’s problems.
I looked at the papers on the table and pointed. “Can you recycle paper?”
Emily snickered before she glanced at her mom, who was giving her a “be nice to the lady” look. “That’s my homework! I can’t recycle my homework.” Then she muttered under her breath, “But I would love to.”
I backed off a bit. “Well, maybe not important papers, like your homework. But what types of things can be recycled?”
Now I was in her territory. “Paper, plastic, cardboard boxes…”
“Can I stop you right there?”
She didn’t like being interrupted when she was explaining about her favorite subject, but her parents had trained her well. “O.K.”
“I have to ask you why you are so passionate about recycling. What is it that has captured your attention?”
Emily smiled and nodded. “I love where I live. I see pictures on television that show dirty rivers and plastic in the oceans that are killing fish.” She paused and smiled sadly. “It just hurts me to see the planet being hurt. It’s almost like she is crying for help.”
Spoken as only an eight year old can. Empathic. Simple. Profound.
Why was I having this conversation with a young girl I barely knew?
Children of Team Earth
A team of 32 people from all over the world have joined together to create a photo story project called “Children of Team Earth.” Our mission is to ask children what their vision of the world is and what they can do to make it come true. The reason why is to connect people from all cultures, races, religions and countries, human to human, heart to heart.
Visual stories are the most impactful way to create empathy (the ability to understand and share the feelings of another). Empathy breaks down barriers while bridging disparities. Through this process, solutions can be created that serve the greater good of the world.
There are many more heart connecting stories from children who see clearly, act on their beliefs and are passionate about changing the world.
Please visit Children of Team Earth on Facebook and Instagram (@childrenofteamearth). To support this project, please share what you can on this GoFundMe page.
If you live in the Miami area, we are holding an art exhibit of the photographs and stories on February 6, 2019 from 6:00 – 9:00 p.m., at the Wynwood Garage, 321 Northwest 26th Street, Miami, Florida. Buy tickets here.