How Collecting can Change the World

by Kathryn Craft

Do you believe your child can change the world?

Do you believe you can change the world?

My stepdaughter, Silver, recently sent me the link to this wonderful, upbeat Sesame Street video, “Change The World.” She wrote, “If only parents, teachers, and society continued this message to all kids. Even if they believed it at five, I suspect if you polled a bunch of thirteen-year-olds many would no longer believe this.”

She has a great point, so I wanted to extend the conversation here. The incoming messages during our teen years do tend to signal a disturbing change from “Anything’s possible!” to “Who do you think you are?”

One way our children gain in personal power is through encouraging participation in activities that capitalize on natural talents. It occurs to me that there’s another way that doesn’t require quite so much running around.

I allowed my children to be collectors.

Collecting doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. When I was young I collected postcards my relatives found on their world travels; butterflies I caught, identified and preserved; and sea shells my parents brought back from various trips (I had never even been to the ocean). I then became obsessed with “anything little”—the tinier the better—and collected anything from worry dolls to miniature bottles to tiny Sunmaid raisin boxes.

Surrounding myself with items that struck my fancy, I learned that my interests and passions could change my little corner of the world and reflect my presence in it. I was the magnet that brought these items together.

My children funded their collections with their allowance. Since our move a few years ago, these collections found a new home in our basement. The minerals my older son bought languish in their plastic drawers; my younger son’s Beanie Babies slowly smother in a plastic trash bag. Not usually one to want anything to go to waste, this doesn’t bother me at all. They’ve fulfilled their function and earned the rest: my older son is pursuing a career in opera, and my younger son works part-time as a traffic engineer between gigs with his hardcore band that have allowed him to travel the U.S. and abroad. They are connecting with audiences and living what is important to them and, in their own small way, changing the world.

I can provide a longer case study. These days I collect books. And one year from now I will add one to my shelves—The Art of Falling—that carries my name on the front. The book will reflect a decade of consistent work on my part, and more than a year of work on the part of the publishing team. And it will reflect my chance to change not only my little corner of the world, but the little corners in which my potential readers sit—and it will be my honor to do so. Check out the cover, revealed today at The Blood-Red Pencil!

Then pop back here and tell me: what did you collect? Did you ever think about the fact that you were the magnet that drew these items, experiences, or people together?