Let That Child Loose

by jenlovallo

Some people stick. I’ve tried to explain this countless times in my life with more detail, more eloquence, and it never really works. I always come back to the same thing. Some people just stick. It’s a face, a feeling, a moment you can’t quite describe–it leaves a lasting impact on your life. There’s no rhyme or reason to who makes the cut…or maybe there is something to it. Maybe it’s divine intervention, maybe it’s a series of mile markers/hearts/lives that determine the direction we drive our destiny (and yes, I realize that’s a paradoxical statement….one with which I eternally wrestle). Whatever it is, I haven’t figured it out yet, and I don’t know that I would want to if I could. The individuals that have most influenced my life aren’t those I would have predicted or planned upon; I’d safely venture to say the majority are people I’ll probably never see again.

Two weeks ago today, I encountered two of those people. I first learned of them two months prior with a sneak screening of Revolutionary Optimists at the Shot@Life Summit in DC. Two kids, in their barely double-digit years of life, decided to do something. They decided to change their world. They identified the importance of polio prevention, clean water, and girls’ rights, and they did something about it. They put themselves on the map (both figuratively and technically). These aren’t small-scale feats. These kids didn’t mess around. They wanted better lives and a better community, so they set it in motion. They drew a map. They went to Parliament. They walked through the streets of their slum with megaphones shouting about polio vaccines.

Now, they’re thirteen and fourteen, and they’ve changed their world. I’m inspired and awestruck. I have total kid crushes. I’m tempted to call them junior change agents, but they’re far from it. They’re the real deal–the ones that any and all of us still aspiring, should seek to embrace and embody. The week of the NYC premiere, UNICEF hosted an intimate screening and panel discussion with the filmmakers and the inspirations, Salim and Shika, along with their group leader, Amlan, of Prayasam. I jumped at the opportunity. I accepted the invite, put on my Shot@Life shoes, and headed into the city for the night.

That night, Salim became one of those people. He stuck. Amidst the audience, someone posed a question. People always say you have to see the opportunities past the obstacles to make a difference. I’m sure you’ve faced your share of obstacles along the way. What did you do when people told you no?

Salim sat there for a moment processing the translation. His face lit up as he started giggling. In the amplified decibel of his still-learning English voice, he simply said, Well…I didn’t listen.

It was that simple. I didn’t listen. The room erupted in laughter and clapping. I took those words as truth. That moment, that sparkly-eyed boy that seemingly can only speak in a shout, he stuck in my heart. He didn’t hear no. Maybe he heard it, but he refused to accept it. I’m determined to be more like Salim. My thirteen-year-old role model’s the real deal. There’s a child that can change the world in all of us–it’s our job to let that child loose.

photo 12.43.35 PM

Amlan, Salim, me, and Shika @ the Revolutionary Optimists screening @ UNICEF, March 27, 2013.

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