This I Believe

Cathleen - Aurora, Illinois
Entered on January 4, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: children, hope
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When I was a young, I believed that every problem in the world could be fixed. I believed that adults always knew what they were doing and always acted in everyone’s best interest. I believed that if there was a conflict, it would soon be solved. I believed that world peace was possible. Then, I grew up.

It happens to all of us, somewhere in our early teenage years; we stop believing. We start to question the motivation of adults. We see how much more complicated conflicts are than we had initially believed. We see that ambition, greed, and revenge play a large role in the world. We believe problems cannot be solved. But this is not what I believe.

I teach eighth grade history. It is possibly the last year where my students look at the world with innocent eyes. They are not so jaded in their thinking, yet, to believe that problems cannot be solved. Growing up in the post-Cold War era, there are many lessons they don’t learn until coming to my class. I have the onerous task of explaining to my students what nuclear war is. They honestly don’t know until I tell them. Their reaction: “Well, that is the stupidest thing I have ever heard! Why do we need enough weapons to blow up the planet? Let’s just get rid of them. If what we are afraid of now is some crazy individual getting a hold of a nuclear weapon, why don’t we just destroy them all and then we can all live?”

Naive? Nope. Beautiful. After this conversation, my students will start every class coming up with their solutions on how to fix the world. I tell them of the enormity of the problem and instead of them saying, “Wow, this world sucks,” they want to fix it.

When my students come up with a plan to find Osama bin Laden (which they do every year) I ask them, “Don’t you think that if the entire military is looking for him that they would have thought about that?” Then I stop and I think about things. How successful has the military been at finding him? What if the worldview that we have as adults narrows our focus? What if what it takes is believing that these problems can be fixed? What if that is causing us to ask the wrong questions and therefore leading us to the wrong answers? What if my students are the ones who are right?

Whose belief do I want to follow, those who believe the world’s problems cannot be fixed or those who believe they can? At the age of 34, I have decided I am joining camp with the 14 year olds. After all, if I can encourage them to keep the belief that the world can be fixed, maybe they will fix it.