As the daughter of an art teacher (and no, I inherited absolutely none of mom’s talent), I was particularly pleased by a program at Southwest Baltimore Charter School, where students spent the day at the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter (BARCS) and then made original paintings that are being used in promotional materials for animal adoption. What I really love about this project is that, in addition to showcasing animals in need from a child’s perspective, and then raising funds for BARCS by auctioning off the posters that the kids create, it can’t help but foster compassion in young people, paving the way for the next generation to have a much-needed soft spot in their hearts when it comes to other creatures.
Another great thing about this kind of feel-good project is it can probably get some mainstream attention. In the ABC News piece that alerted us to this heartwarming story, art teacher Siobhan Nolan was able to let a wide audience in on how moved she was by the 2nd graders’ passion: “…the kids, they’re just… so in love with the cause and what they’re doing in bringing awareness to BARCS that I don’t even know where to start.” That’s the beauty of it, though, isn’t it? We adults might not always know where to start, but when it comes to kindness to animals, kids know exactly where to begin. It appears in tiny ways, like a child who wants to feed a bird, or bring home a stray cat, or not eat animals anymore.
It never ceases to amaze me how kids just so immediately grasp onto the notion of compassion to animals. I often wonder what it is that creates so much resistance to that seemingly obvious concept as we become adults. With programs like these, particularly ones that engage the arts — something so emotional and visceral — as a way to make change, we really can keep those compassion seeds planted in children. Who knows what will blossom?