(Original piece written on October 16, 2019)
Last night at the spaceship-like Campus Center of Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, among gleaming rooftop windows supported by a web-like structure of aluminum metal, and smooth concrete floors awash in white flourescence, I unexpectedly found myself in a room full of about 25 kids, all of whom seemed to be anywhere between 8-15 years old (with the exception of two older adults) watching the Democratic Debate on a large TV mounted on the wall.
A smiling and excited kid, maybe 12 years old, had waved me in from the main hall of the campus center after seeing me standing there for a moment, watching through one of the enormous windows and reading the closed captioning.
I stayed for about a half hour, mesmerized by the debate and feeling joy and wonder about all these children who (even though on their phones at times) were clearly listening and engaged. At one point, Bernie Sanders mentioned the Green New Deal and the room spontaneously broke into a rainstorm of snapping-finger style applause (which I happily joined in with).
And in a flash, I understood on a deeper level that something about the world had changed. They seemed to actually care. These kids cared (because what choice do they have?) what will happen to the environment they’ll grow up living in – their air, their water, their bees, their trees and birds, their communities, their future. They seemed to care in a way that was almost second nature, as if watching this long, not-very-entertaining debate was a ritual for them, like climbing trees, riding bikes, or playing games at a local park.
I wanted to cry, but I couldn’t keep myself from smiling.
(2019 Ben Ross. All Rights Reserved.)