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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Nice or Famous?

Imagine this.
You got your big shot. Finally! A chance to realize your dream and reach stardom! (I'll let you fill in the blank as to how your newly-risen status comes about: acting gig, celebrity chef, opening act for Coldplay. Don't get too caught up about the talent. This exercise is just pretend.) But en route to your "chance of a lifetime," you come across an accident in which a person is in need of help. And wouldn't you know it. You're the only one around. But it will definitely cost you your chance–of a lifetime. Do you sacrifice the opportunity for fame in the name of benevolence? Or do you assume someone else can help? After all, this might be your only chance.

Obviously, most people aren't posed with this type of moral dilemma: fame or kindness. However, last week I read about a survey in which teenagers ranked fame as their value of choice...beating out the more humble value of benevolence. (And apparently this is a trend that has taken quite a shift in the past fifteen years.) Now, I didn't get caught up in analyzing the validity of the study, but it did get me thinking.

It does seem that we do, as a society, place a lot of emphasis on celebrity status. Getting famous. Upload a video to YouTube and voila. Reality TV. Everyone gets a bit of attention on Facebook. And really, you need no talent. Look at me. I get to write a blog and press publish post...see?

I'm trying to get a book published for Middle Grade/Young Adults. I won't go into the details of the plot–just in case you see in Barnes and Nobles someday–but its message involves the power of compassion. And even though I've had a few nibbles from agents, and some nice comments about my writing, the theme must be too...quiet. You see, my protagonist learns an unforgettable lesson about kindness. And somewhere during the plot, being popular becomes...forgotten. Hallelujah.

When I posed the fame versus kindness question to my kids, they merely shrugged, "You can be kind and be famous." True. But fame seems scary. Almost disease-like. This past week we watched (whether you wanted to or not) coverage of Whitney Houston. Is fame something we really want for our children? While celebrities are beautiful and have shiny things, their lives never appear fulfilling. So, why should anyone want that? For material wealth? For social acceptance? Or to feel good about themselves?

In my extremely researched opinion, I think we need to teach our children that acting kind to others is the best thing a person can do. Better than becoming famous. Really. Helping an elderly man cross the street will bring more satisfaction than elevating oneself to stardom status with a bathroom one can play baseball in. Maybe we can start by showing acts of kindness ourselves. And who knows. We all might just might stumble into a whole lot more happiness.

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