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A 6-Year-Old with a Cigarette Asks You, “Can I Get a Light?” (How your kids change you)

get a light-Maybe it seems like an unlikely scenario.

But that’s exactly what happened.

In Bangkok, two children walked to up two women who were smoking. With cigarettes hanging out of their own tiny mouths they asked, “Can I get a light?”

What would you do?

One of the women replied, “They drill a hole in your throat. Aren’t you afraid of surgery?”

A man spoke out too: “You know its bad, right? Smoking causes lung cancer and emphysema.”

The children responded by saying this: “If it’s so bad, why are you smoking?” Then they handed the adults a piece of paper that said, “You worry about me. But why not about yourself?”

Then they walked away.

Genius.

By now you’ve probably guessed that the 6-year-old kids weren’t smokers. They were a part of a video campaign made by Ogilvy & Mather for the Thai Health Promotion Foundation.

It went viral.

Why?

First: it shocks us. We are a bit startled when 6-year-olds ask someone for a light.

Second: the story makes us pay attention to something we don’t want to pay attention to: Smoking kills you. And the campaign tells us that (again) in a novel way.

But the third thing that captivates me personally is this:

Your dreams for your kids can change your dreams for you.

The brilliance about that smoking campaign is that it made two things very clear:

1. We want the best for our kids.

And that “best” includes them not smoking when they’re 6. That’s obvious.

But we all know our dreams for our kids are much broader. We want them to be active; to be kind; to learn their purpose; to be hard-working; to eat well; to make the faith their faith.

2. Yes we want the best for our kids. But the second thing the campaign makes clear is this: we want the best for us too.

I’m guessing those two women who were asked by six-year-olds “Can I get a light?” gave their own habits a second thought. (FYI, after that campaign the foundation’s smoking hotline received a 40% increase in calls.)

Kids can be a mirror. As author James Baldwin wrote, “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.”

As parents-of-three, my wife and I are continually thinking through how we can provide the best environment for our kids. As a result we try (in our own flawed way) to be outside, to be active, to eat well, to pray often, to model respect, etc.

But then in your quiet moments you discover things you want to hide from your kids—but things you would never want FOR them:

  • A TV show or computer game that just ain’t right?
  • A box of ice cream in one sitting?
  • A blue streak?
  • A gossip factory?

You know what yours is. (And you might even feel awkward imagining it in print.) As I once heard it said, who you really are is who you are when no one is watching. Well, isn’t it also true that who you really are is the you you hide from your kids?

That’s how your dreams for your kids can change your dreams for you.

When we want the best for them, we can, if we’re willing, want the best for us. To be active; to be kind; to learn our purpose; to be hard-working; to eat well; to make the faith our faith.

And to be in private who we want to be in public. To live out in the open and stop hiding.

To cap it off… this:

In the anti-smoking campaign the children responded to the adults’ questions by saying: “If it’s so bad, why are you smoking?” Then they handed the adults a piece of paper that said, “You worry about me. But why not about yourself.”

Imagine your kids—wise beyond their years, looking at you with the hope that a child can often only find in the eyes of a parent—asking you: “You worry about me. But why not about yourself?”

Your dreams for your kids can change your dreams for you.

Remember: You’re only as healthy as you are today. Yes, your kids need you. But you need you too.

Want to start the day right? Me too! Sign up for my “Up!” — my new 1-minute daily devotional by clicking here.

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