The kids are just getting started

Written by Sven Eberlein

Sometimes it’s good to look in a direction we often don’t look for guidance when we deal with our adult problems and complaints. We generally claim that we do most of our struggling and fighting for our children, but when it comes down to making decisions or picking a path we hardly ever listen to them.

Yesterday I went to a preview of the Urban Forest Project at the Opera House in San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood, an amazing collaboration that paired inner city youth from programs like First Exposures with professional designers to create banners with the message of sustainability, to be planted on Earth Day. The artwork these high school students have created to remind us of the beauty of our own unique environment offered some much needed perspective.

And then there were the drawings by kindergartners and 2nd graders on the wall, left hanging from MLK Day…

Yes, life is hard, and with each year on this planet we all add to our collection of disappointments, lost opportunities, and mental scars. It’s easy to get bitter and cynical because things aren’t going our way, or maybe because our ideas of what that “way” could be are becoming more narrow. You know, life as an adult has become so complicated these days, our brains are filled with so many heavy-sounding things like reconciliation, excise tax, and arctic melt. So many things to be unhappy about that we often forget what it is that makes us happy.

Sure thing, it’s a real drag to be on an overpopulated planet with a bunch of greedy and power hungry bloodsuckers out to make life miserable for the rest of us, but I will never stop envisioning a kinder, more creative world…

What I love about the Urban Forest Project is that it combines so many of the values that often get lost in our daily struggles and political battles: collaboration, nurture, creativity, awareness of our surroundings, and an appreciation for the things that sustain us. “Be the change you wish to see,” as Gandhi said, and when I look at these art pieces that will be flying all over my town come April I can’t help but feel hopeful about the human spirit and the prospect of us all treading more lightly on the little round ball that enables us to live and love…

I know I know, the polls are horrible and we’ve been bought and sold, but meanwhile, in the back of the room the kids are just warming up…

I too wonder whether we can get the right kind of legislation quickly enough to reverse global warming and save us all from ourselves. Then I see these youth who grew up in the concrete jungle with so little, making beautiful art and connecting us and themselves back to Mama Earth, and I feel quite alright…

Sure thing, we’ve got to figure out exactly who gets what, how much, and when. We’ve got to hash out who’s right and who’s wrong, who did enough and who didn’t, and what exactly we’re going to do next. Every potential possibility must be considered, no stone left unturned, so we can get exactly what we want. Sure, I’m down, I can take it, I’m a grown up. But sometimes I just need to be reminded of what makes my soul dance by someone who is so much closer to the source…

Can we make the world a better place? What does that mean to you? We often laugh at youthful dreams and flashes of magic, but then again, maybe it’s us who’ve lost our vision. Maybe we’re born with the truth and then are slowly taught to edit it away, one textbook at a time. I have to admit, in my most lucid moments, I see trees full of bicycles, I really do, and I feel happiest and the most sane in those moments.

So I try to remind myself, especially in my most cynical and head-heavy adult moments, that magic and awe and hope and love is all around, always there to tap into and drink from, like a fountain whose wise waters I depend on in order to continue my long and sometimes arduous walk through the world. The seed for our dreams is right there before us and within us, conveniently stripped of all complexity, grammar and packaging, wide open and simple, for those who choose to remember.

Urban Forest Project San Francisco
First Exposures Youth Photography Mentoring Program

About the author

Sven Eberlein

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  • This is so great! Very optimistic and inspiring 🙂 And it’s quite wondering that kids were inspired by Obama! I can’t say I am admirer of him or not but I definitely would love to have the president of my country who would be as inspiring as he is.

    • Nadezhda, most of the kids in that school are black, so there is something exciting about seeing one of their own in the highest office of the country. Most of the people in power in the U.S. are still white, so it’s really uplifting and inspiring to see something that’s never been possible before, regardless of whether one agrees with the politics.