“The kids are alright.”

I think I love this saying more than the average person. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent the majority of my life working with kids. Maybe it’s because I’ve had great students. Or maybe it’s because 50% of my community worldwide are kids. Or maybe it’s really because I know this sentence is so full of hard, beautiful truth.

Unclehood is probably one of the top gigs a human could ever get. I mean, it’s really up there in the “best of” human experiences list. And I have no idea how this happened or how I got to be this lucky, but I just realized that I’ve essentially played an uncle role for at least 60+ different kids so far in my short lifetime.

That’s a long list of avuncular experiences. I’ve driven multiple kids (on the back of my motorbike) to school. I’ve made kids get out of bed to brush their teeth. I’ve taught them how to shave and tie ties. I’ve made them actors in a haunted house. I’ve directed, produced, and starred in several of their plays. I’ve picked them up after their hardest exams. I’ve taken them (all) out for ice cream. I’ve gotten them to talk about their feelings during their first ever heart-to-hearts. I’ve hugged them tight and wiped away their tears after their first heartbreaks.

In return, they’ve shown me resilient joy. They’ve laughed in the face of fear. They’ve constantly helped each other up. They’ve solved problems I could never solve. They’ve asked tough questions like leaders. They’ve proven adults and their preconceived notions wrong. They’ve become change makers in their communities. They’re, quite figuratively, the future.

So, for anyone who ever loses faith in (adult) humanity, take it from me: kids are already off to a great start. Trust me. I’ve gotten to see and experience just this with so many kids. They’re already amazing.

As I’m typing this, my 10-year-old niece, Thi, is starring as the lead in her town play for the first time ever. Yep, one day, you and your niece are playing creative imagination games about 5-star restaurants under the sea, and the next day she’s doing grown woman things like playing the lead in a town play. I guess it’s true what they say: blink and you might just miss everything.

Earlier, I started looking back through old family photos and was quickly reminded of a) just how joyous, strong, and kindhearted of a spirit my niece is, and b) because of this spirit, how some of my favorite portraits I’ve ever shot are of her.

These are my some of my favorite portraits of her.

Yeah. The kids are alright.

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