By M. Barrett Miller
Special to White Center Now
For three years, middle school students, from a slightly improvised local school, have reached out to cheer an elderly group at a local Salvation Army.
When these kids were sixth graders they thought it “nuts” that they would go hang out with a bunch of old people once a month. When the idea was introduced to them, many had had little exposure to the elderly, thinking the “old folks” would be the stereotypes they tried to avoid, rather than embrace.
These particular kids were that unique combination of kids that comes along once in a while as a gift to the unsuspecting. Within the group, most were full of intuition, inquisitiveness, empathy, excitement and the desire to reach out beyond their classroom or school.
When the idea of service to a group of elderly was presented, the kids were already involved in a number of social justice outreach programs. These outreaches were at a distance rather than the one on one offered by direct service at the Salvation Army.
It was the direct contact that had a few of them nervous. Because of the following successes, they had the internal confidence to trust themselves, and me, and plunge into hands on service.
In preparation, and to build confidence, for their lunch service, to the elderly, the students had written letters to young girls in Kandahar, Afghanistan, who had been attacked on their way to school because they were girls who wanted an education. Federal Express delivered their letters and photos, of the girls in the class, to Dexter Filkins at the New York Times in Afghanistan. He delivered them to the school he had written about in the Times that sparked this particular class project.
These kids drafted a petition to recognize the Duwamish Tribe, which was delivered to Congressman Jim McDermott in support of his work towards this tribe’s federal recognition. The Congressman wrote them a wonderful letter commending their efforts.
A number of the kids began visiting a man living in Bailey-Boushay House who is fighting loneliness, isolation and abandonment issues that so often accompany the struggles with AIDS. He has become their friend and looks forward to seeing and hearing from them when they have the opportunity to visit.
Children’s Hospital received hundreds of hand-designed Christmas cards for distribution to young patients staying in hospital over the holidays. Homeless shelters, hospitals, clinics and outdoor camps of homeless all received glad tidings from these students either in writing or by organized visits to various locations to share some hope and some support.
Once the kids had their first visit to the elderly under their collective belts, they couldn’t wait for their next visit.
As the years rolled by, relationships bloomed between the generations. The kids, and the “gray panthers,” shared holiday events, letters, short interviews and biographies, photos and best of all the love that developed through being together.
The State of Washington recognized the kids with a Resolution honoring all they have done for so many in their greater community.
HOUSE RESOLUTION NO.2009-4652, by Representatives Cody and Nelson
WHEREAS, The people of Washington State acknowledge the community contributions and achievements of the student volunteers of Let Kids Be Kids, Inc. at Holy Family Parish School, West Seattle, Washington; and
WHEREAS, The members of Let Kids be Kids, Inc. have established a regular visitation schedule to the elderly at the Salvation Army in West Seattle, and provide meal service and offer heartfelt companionship; and
WHEREAS, The students have exhibited compassion, sympathy, and friendship by creating and delivering Christmas cards for children in Seattle Children’s Hospital; and
WHEREAS, The students have conducted a letter campaign in support of a girls school in Kandahar, Afghanistan, where girls have been attacked for attending classes, and have inspired courage, hope, and pride, and offered solidarity to the Afghan girls so that they might continue their path to acquire education and realize their own talents, dreams, and goals; and
WHEREAS, They exhibited their knowledge of local history, and empathy for treatment of
Washington’s Native Nations, by visiting the Duwamish Longhouse and drafting a petition supporting the tribe’s request for achievement of federally recognized tribal status (I); and
WHEREAS, Let Kids Be Kids, Inc. has planned a campaign to support the poor and the homeless and those affected by HIV/AIDS in the community, by providing letters, visitations, and meals to the most vulnerable residents of our state;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, That the House of Representatives recognize and honor Let Kids Be Kids, Inc and Holy Family Parish School, West Seattle, for its exemplary service to Washington State and to members of the global community, and commend the high standard it has set for all residents of Washington for its commitment to social justice and its legacy to our future generations.
I hereby certify this to be a true and correct copy of I hereby certify this to be a true and correct copy of Resolution 4652 adopted by the House of Representatives
Barbara Baker, Chief Clerk
Resolution 4652 adopted by the House of Representatives
These kids have humbled me more than once during these three years of watching them forge ahead, guided by their hearts.
It has been an honor and a pleasure to have the experience and the reconfirmation into what can be done when kids are honored and trusted.