We live in selfish, uncertain times. With the media constantly drenched in stories about the latest goings-on of power-hungry narcissists, it can be hard to see the good in the world. Father and daughter team Paul D. Parkinson and Sammie Parkinson wanted to offer something different, so they wrote Unselfish Kids, a book containing 40 short stories about kids who are making a difference in the lives of others.
Self-published, Unselfish Kids was a labor of love for the Parkinsons. Sammie Parkinson describes herself as being called to "pure and simple acts of service," and spends her time volunteering in orphanages and elementary schools. Her father, Paul, is a filmmaker and creator of the film Nowhere Safe, a feature-length movie about cyberbullying based on real events. Collaborating on this project about the kindness of children was a natural fit for the close-knit pair. "Our children have endless possibilities," the authors wrote in Unselfish Kids. "Spend time with any child, and it’s as if you can hear them say, 'Give me a little support, and I can do amazing things.'"
I have spent the last hour reading all of these stories, and I am overwhelmed with such a feeling of hope and joy because, let me tell you: The kids? They're alright. It's the adults that need to do better.
The authors start the book with a message to the readers, and they reminded me of an Everett Hale quote I had forgotten: “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”
We could all hold that idea close to our hearts, and it would do us well.
Here are a few of the most unforgettable tales from the book.
1. Playing To Your Talents
Young pianist Christopher Nguyen began learning piano at age 5, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. As his skills increased, he began playing for the residents of a care center at Waters Edge Lodge. The residents liked it so much, they wanted him to come back and keep doing it. Seven years later, a 12 year old Christopher still volunteers to play piano at the lodge.
2. A Doll For Comfort
When Bella Fricker was 9 year old, she heard about four children in her community who were sick with cancer. She learned about the devastating effects of chemotherapy, and couldn't imagine how hard it would be for kids to lose their hair. She began making and selling bracelets to raise money, and with the proceeds she purchased four American Girl dolls that did not have any hair for the children. But she didn't stop there. At the time of the publication, Bella had purchased 38 dolls for children at the hospital where she first donated.
3. A Heart For The Homeless
Khloe Thompson worried about the homeless people she would pass on her walk to school each morning. Eventually, she approached her grandmother, Betty, about wanting to do something kind for those people. Together, they started sewing handbags and filling them with some basic necessities like toothbrushes and soap. This would eventually become her mission, Khloe Kares, and she is still creating the bags to this day.
4. A Warm Hug
When Lucy Crouse was 9 years old she began quilting with her grandmother. Knowing how wonderful it made her feel, she began making quilts and soft toys for homeless and refugee families that "could use a hug." She has been doing it ever since.
5. You've Got A Friend In Me
Kamden Houshan is unable to walk due to a large tumor on his spine. Wheelchair bound, he worried about making friends upon entering kindergarten. Little did Kamden know, he would meet Paul Burnett and become instant friends. Eventually Paul would help Kamden with more than just friendship, he would create fundraisers to buy Kamden a new wheelchair.
6. Something Good From Something Bad
One summer, Hunter and Jeffrey Paglino had the unfortunate displeasure of contracting salmonella and had to be hospitalized for some time. After they got out, well and hale, they decided to start a lemonade stand to benefit a program at the hospital that helps cheer up the pediatric patients.
7. Just A Mensch
Young Josh Cudzey is just a wonderful kid. Doing everything from helping a wheelchair bound man get home in a snowstorm to donating food and toys, he was rewarded by the City of Albany with their "Citizen of the Day," award for his service.
8. Something Soft To Cherish
When Julianna Gouthiere heard how a small teddy bear soothed her mother during a scary time as a child, she decided everyone who needed soothing should have it. She began collecting plush animals to distribute to those in need, and has been doing it for the past five years.
9. A Song For Hope
When Carter Davidson began taking guitar lessons, he didn't know that eventually he would play to thousands of people to raise money for the Children's Hospital of Atlanta, but that's exactly what he has done for the past several years.
10. A Big Birthday Wish
Young Bella Broughton's birthday falls close to Christmas, and instead of asking for more gifts, she started asking for supplies to be donated to the local animal shelter. A few years later, and she's now bringing toys to children who need them, and with the help of social media, the program has blown up. Way to go, Bella.
The world can be dark. We can all be self-absorbed, lacking gratitude for our gifts, and taking life for granted. Why not step back, read a few stories about those who rise to meet the challenges life throws, and make the world better? We can all learn from the children.