A hero is characterized by sacrificing courageously for a cause. I would like to salute a new type of hero who is demonstrating this quality constantly in this era of COVID-19 – each of our children.
For youth of all ages, tremendous effort invested in intellectual, creative and physical pursuits reaped no reward, and anticipated dreams seem to have reached a dead end. As parents and educators, we acknowledge the pain, frustration and deep disappointment of missed opportunities and celebrations. Simultaneously, we can offer the empowering perspective to our children that they are heroes because they sacrificed to save lives.
To the little girl who wakes up each morning to stare at the sparkling costume she was planning to wear to her dance recital - you sacrificed and you are a hero.
To the little boy who retreats to his backyard to throw and catch his baseball solo, missing his team and favorite spring sport - you sacrificed and you are a hero.
To the child who spent countless hours perfecting their classical piano piece, and knows that a virtual recital is just not the same – you sacrificed and you are a hero.
To the middle schooler who spent hours memorizing lines for the lead part he finally landed in the school play – only to have it canceled - you sacrificed and you are a hero.
To the high school girl whose best moments are on the soccer field – you sacrificed and you are a hero.
To the high school boy who is captain of his football team and this important outlet has left a profound void – you sacrificed and you are a hero.
To the college student who flourished on campus with professors and now struggles to learn virtually - you sacrificed and you are a hero.
To the children and adolescents missing unique festivities, school picnics, field trips and parties - you all sacrificed and you are all heroes.
To the graduating students across-the-board who worked tirelessly, anticipating the unique moment of pride celebrating with family, peers and teachers- you all sacrificed and you are all heroes.
The average child does not have the opportunity to sacrifice in a deep way. The years spanning from childhood through adolescence are ideally carefree. The demand to leave our comfort zone comes later, with the struggle to balance our jobs, raise and support a family, and contribute to strengthen our community. During this era dominated by covid-19, children are getting an unusually early dose of selflessness. This new reality does not have to crush our children’s spirits, but can fuel them with resilience as they forge ahead. As challenges arise in the future, sacrifice won't be quite as new and unfamiliar. Deep within will be a reservoir of strength. They will look back and know with pride that outstanding sacrifices were made to save lives, and as they tap into that reserve, will pull through with confidence.
Let's salute this entire generation of children, and through their tears and broken hearts, tell them that they have acted courageously and they, too, are heroes.
Chana Burston is an educator and proud mother of five children, spanning ages 5-17. Together with her husband, Rabbi Pesach, she co-directs the non-for-profit organization Chabad of Orange County.