The Positivity Express makes one more stop
Up is down. Black is white. Hot is cold. If one person believes something to be true, well, rest assured, someone else is going to pipe in with a contrarian opinion. It might be genuine. It might be an attempt to escalate a conflict. Or it might just be because one or both of those parties are, well, jerk-faces.
It’s exhausting. Our national election cycle has become a 24/7 proposition, as our elected officials spend more time firing up their bases and preparing for their next election than they do, you know, legislating. And the bases? Oh, they play right into it, arguing amongst each other over who is right, who is more wrong, and who is less patriotic than the other because of what elected designer-clad politicians they support more.
But you know what? This will be a problem tomorrow. It will be a problem next week. And it will be a problem next year. For now, let’s embrace the holiday season that is fully around us, extend the olive branch to one another long enough to enjoy the niceties and warmth of the season and just try to be kind. Kind is good, folks. We don’t always have to be at war with each other.
In fact, let me tell you about Tyler Stallings.
Stallings has a bunch of veterans in his extended family and was raised to think of them as heroes, according to an article on cnn.com. When he learned, at the tender age of 4, that some veterans are homeless, he became confused.
“He wanted to do something to help them right away, so he asked his mom if he could build houses for them,” according to that article. “At such a young age, he wasn’t in the best position to start building houses.”
“He saw videos of veterans holding signs (and) no one responding to their cry for help and he thought this isn’t right,” said his mother, Andrea Blackstone, via “Good Morning America.” “He didn’t like it. He asked me, ‘If they’re heroes, why should they be on the street?’”
Frustrated, he began making what he calls “hero bags.” Tyler and his mother would put together hygiene and grooming kits for homeless veterans, along with thank-you cards to give them a little boost. The winter bags would include a hat, gloves, blanket, lip balm, a sweater and basic grooming items, according to the article.
Blackstone reached out to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who helped Tyler out with a kid’s grant of $100 through Start A Snowball, an organization that lists on its website a mission statement that reads, “Help us create a generation of givers through supporting kids and their community service projects.”
Great idea, right? Every little bit helps, and this precocious kid has rolled up his proverbial sleeves and gone to work. Now 8 years old, Tyler has used a GoFundMe page to raise funds to continue his efforts. He has raised more than $50,000 over the past four years, according to his mother.
“Anything people can do to help them with items on their wish lists, that’s where people like Tyler come in,” said Blackstone, explaining how Tyler has not only donated these bags to organizations, but also to specific individuals. “For Tyler, being a part of that community as a superhero has been about raising awareness.”
Who else loves this kid? Because I love this kid.
Tyler has become a fixture at the Maryland Center of Veteran Education & Training, according to an article by foxnews.com, and he’s recently partnered with a mattress company — securing 250 beds for that facility.
He knows that he’s helped others with his efforts — I mean, that was his intended goal from the start of all of this — but he has also learned how helping others can help one’s self.
“They should have all the things they need because of all the good things they’ve done for our country,” he said. “It makes me feel very happy and very good when they have a happy reaction.”
Blackstone said she, too, has gained a lot from Tyler’s inspiration — some of which is as simple as paying attention to the smaller voices around us.
“It’s been a journey but a rewarding one,” she told “Good Morning America.” “I just want to encourage people to listen to their kids because you never know where their ideas can go.”
I like that quote. “I just want to encourage people to listen to their kids because you never know where their ideas can go.”
This is important. It’s important that we don’t turn up our noses or dismiss the ideas and thoughts of others, regardless their age, size, race, gender or football loyalties (unless they’re Steelers fans, obviously).
We get better as a community through new ideas. We grow as a species by lifting others through our conscious decisions to do just that. We elevate by inclusion.
Hats off to Tyler Stallings, and all the other Tyler Stallings who strive to make the world better. Merry Christmas.