Suzanne Bouffard Ph.D.

The Most Important Year

My Holiday Wish List for Our Nation's Children

I can't give every kid what they need, but together we can.

Posted Dec 22, 2017

Suzanne Bouffard
Source: Suzanne Bouffard

As I sat on the floor this morning wrapping gifts for my children, I thought about how fortunate I am to give them all they have. I was thinking about not just the toys and books, but the things that can’t be wrapped, the things that make my children happy and healthy and strong. I wish I could give them to all our nation’s children. Since I can’t do it alone, here’s my wish list:

  1. Access to healthcare. If a child doesn’t have the chance to stay well and be taken care of when sick, few other things matter. And if a society won’t ensure this most basic right for all children, it has its own sickness that needs a cure.
  2. Adults who believe in them even when they stumble. We all make mistakes; we are all learning every day. Children deserve all the chances they need to succeed. Yet the children who have the least and need the most get less chances from the people and institutions around them. Children are not problems or burdens, they are resources to be developed. No child benefits from a label, unless it comes with a big bow and a holiday gift.
  3. A world that teaches respect and rejects hate. Children see the world through the lenses we give them. When we teach them to listen before they judge, to seek to understand, and to choose kindness, we make them free. But when we teach them that only certain people deserve love and respect, we chain them behind walls they can’t even see.
  4. Passion. People who are engaged in something – anything – are engaged in the world. They have purpose and pleasure. Passions and the people who pursue them make life interesting and meaningful. Every child deserves the chance to explore the many things they can do and be, and to be valued for whoever they are.
  5. The chance to give. Children who see what they can offer the world – a smile, a new idea, a donation to charity – learn their own worth and everyone else’s. They make life better for themselves and all of us. We need to make room for their contributions, from indulging chatty children on airplanes to volunteering with them to seeing that even the most “challenging” children have gifts to share.

I’m sharing this list with you because we can give these things to every child. We just have to decide that these gifts aren’t gifts at all. They are priorities. Making them priorities means we do what it takes to give every child health insurance and great schools and the supports their families need to be stable and strong. I can’t go buy those things. But if we all chip in, we can give every child what he or she really needs this holiday. And I will personally wrap it up with a big gold bow.