When six year old Ellie, who lives in Saint Joseph, Michigan, visited the Pfister with her family a few weeks ago, she noticed a box I’d posted on the lobby staircase with a question:
If time, money, and fear were no object, what would you finally get around to doing?
Ellie dictated her response to her mother, who shared it with me. I share it now with you, still in awe at the mindfulness and compassion that soak the words of this small girl. Ellie answered that question with, “I would become a meteorologist so I can tell people when to evacuate earlier than they do now. Cause things can be replaced but humans can’t.”
In an age when selfishness and scandal too often snatch our attention, the ones who truly deserve the spotlight are the Ellies, the hearts who take what could make us reel in fear and act diligently on behalf of someone else. So today, this story is hers.
A tornado touched down a mile from Ellie’s home in St Louis when she was just a year old. A few months later, a straight line wind from another nearby tornado caused a tree that had stood firmly for a century to crash onto their garage, demolishing it. Maybe a concern for the brute force of weather marked her as a baby, because Ellie became fascinated by extreme weather early on; she relished her mother’s stories of growing up near tornado alley. She also became passionate about the environment, asking lots of insightful questions as she learned about how our choices are contributing to the increase of extreme weather over time.
After an especially heavy snowstorm, Ellie didn’t just build snowmen and swish ineffectual angels in the drifts. She also signed up to be a precipitation monitor for the CoCoRhas Program, a group of 20,000 volunteers who daily report rain gauge precipitation.
She followed that with a visit to the Channel 57 station in South Bend, Indiana, where she delightedly practiced giving a meteorology report, and then to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, where the storm exhibit was her favorite.
But these day trips still weren’t enough for Ellie. She is the type of girl who is a force for good, the kind of child grown ups quickly learn not to underestimate. Ellie asked her mother, a teacher, if she would sponsor a weather club at Ellie’s school next fall. Ellie will direct this club, and her plans include weather experiments, visits from climate experts, and eco-friendly initiatives that kids can work on together.
Ellie would, of course, make an incredible meteorologist someday. We are hopeful that her generation will take this battered world they’ll inherit and handle it with much more care than we’ve modeled for them. We would do well to learn from Ellie now so that when she is working at a news station someday, she will have better things to report.