He was upset, distraught might not be too strong of a word. It was that time of night when a boy’s body quiets down but his mind doesn’t. At age 8, Sullivan was worried about the future. In particular, he was crying about all the animals, and the way people are destroying the world and wildlife habitat.
Ever since he could express himself verbally, Sullivan has displayed a deep love and affection for animals. He has determined already that when he grows up he wants to be a Zoologist. He can recite the most obscure facts about peregrine falcons. I am positive I didn’t even know what a peregrine falcon was at age 8, did you?
Sullivan has never owned a dog, a cat, or even so much as a gerbil, but on most every trip to visit him, we make an effort to head over to the local pet store so that he can peruse all the animals in their consumer habitats. We always stop at the iguana cage, another creature about which Sullivan knows a great deal.
So it is hardly surprising that as he grows and becomes more aware of the world-at-large, Sullivan has become concerned about things like climate change and its impact on the animals. Anxiety about the animals survival had Sullivan in tears this week as he curled up next to his mother for their nightly prayers.
“I know why there are no such things as real monsters,” he said between sobs. “People are the monsters. They are the ones destroying everything. I wish there were never any people so the animals could have the world to themselves!”
Is there anything more precious than a tender-hearted boy?
“Well that wouldn’t be right,” his mama replied. “God made people in his own image because God loves us and wants a relationship with us. But God created us with the ability to help others, and to help the animals.”
The next day, Sullivan’s mama told him about Creaturerefugee, a non-profit dedicated to helping restore vulnerable wildlife habitats. Founded by Chris and Martin Kratt, the real life duo behind the PBS show Wild Kratts, the non-profit grew out of their response to kids wanting to know “What can I do to help the animals?”
Intrigued, Sullivan and his little brother Austin, 5, went off to devise a plan of action, as their mother went about her work-from-home schedule. Did I also mention that she is in the midst of negotiations regarding their first-home purchase? If anything has drilled down the realities of this global pandemic it has been having a first-row seat to watching my three daughters juggle full-time jobs while providing a nurturing learning environment for our six grands. When news reports surface regarding the millions of women who have dropped out of the workforce during the pandemic in order to stay home and care for kids, I marvel at my own daughters’ abilities to manage their demanding careers with their busy households.
The recently released Census Bureau population estimates show that the population growth of the US is at its lowest growth rate since 1900. This is due in a large part to two factors: Women are choosing to have fewer kids, if at all, and legal immigration has been on the decline.
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist or a statistician to figure out that the primary reason women are having fewer children is because they get so little support. Nothing ruins a woman’s career advancement quite as efficiently as childbirth. And when you consider that women are already at a disadvantage when it comes to pay inequity, one can hardly blame women for deciding to not have children, or to have fewer kids. The economic fallout from such declines hasn’t begun to be dealt with, as The Daily podcast rightly highlights. As Senator Warren and others have pointed out repeatedly over the years, we need to do more to support women in the workplace. We are still the nation that relegates childcare and eldercare to young women, upon the assumption that men are the breadwinners and thus can’t be tasked with such poorly paid jobs.
Animals, it seems, aren’t the only creatures facing seemingly insurmountable problems, which is why I was overjoyed when my daughter sent me the photo of Sullivan and Austin in the nearby church parking lot, selling hand-painted rocks to save the wildlife.
On their own, the boys decided they needed to figure out a way to raise money for the Creaturefuge. So they set up a table and painted rocks they collected. Each rock sold for a $1. All the proceeds would go to the Kratts Brothers fund. The first day they made $11. And as an encouragement, Granny offered to match the monies they raised. Then Pa doubled the ante by matching Granny’s match. The next day, Sullivan and Austin raised $44, thanks to one kindly lady who paid $25 for a painted rock to help save the wildlife.
Sullivan and Austin’s actions on behalf of the very real problem of wildlife habitat decline is a powerful reminder that without problems and challenges, all the world’s hero helpers would have nothing to do, no one to rescue, no one to inspire, no one to care for.
And who wants to live in a world void of hero helpers?
Not me, how about you?
Karen Spears Zacharias is author of Karly Sheehan: The True Crime Story behind Karly’s Law.