Keep trying, no matter the outcome

Published 10:49 pm Tuesday, August 6, 2019

By Nathan Rice

The quote that appeared on my Facebook page said, “Every kid is one caring adult away from being a success story.” We’ve all heard stories that prove this statement is true.

What we don’t hear about as much are the times when a caring adult pours himself or herself into the life of a child, but his or her efforts do not change the sad outcome that appeared certain from the beginning. These stories don’t make feel-good pieces for television shows like “60 Minutes.”

Email newsletter signup

I’ve worked with a lot of children over the years, and I have tried my best to be that one caring adult. I’ve worked hard to provide many children a safe outlet from the cruel world around them, teach them as they grow, and train them how to be a strong, mature, productive adult.

Unfortunately, I’ve never been part of a success story. The children I have worked with have been unable to overcome their homes, their neighborhoods, and the situations into which life has placed them. My efforts have fallen short, and I have failed to be a part of a success story.

This realization was weighing on my mind when I pulled up to a house of a 10-year-old boy. He ran out of the house and jumped into my car. I’ve worked with him for years, and I promised him that he could choose what we did today. We started the day with breakfast before heading to the aquarium in Virginia Beach. We visited each exhibit three times with a break in between for lunch and a 3D IMAX movie about turtles.

It was his first 3D IMAX movie, and the people in the row in front of us got a chuckle when he reached for the turtle that seemed to hover in front of his face and said, “Wow! This is awesome! How do they do that?”

There was still time left in the day, so I decided to stop at the Virginia Beach oceanfront for some additional fun before we headed to dinner. He dug a hole in the sand, just like the turtle in the movie. He then slid down a nearby slope to mimic the turtle’s descent to the ocean. He continued pretending to be a turtle while I started working on a small sandcastle that he said he wanted to build before we left.

He came to assist with the sandcastle once he was tired of being a turtle. We were working on the walls of the castle when he said, “I’m actually happy today.”

I know that’s not much. Being happy for a day won’t make a great 20/20 feature. There will never be a heartwarming video that goes viral because this 10-year-old had a fun day. It’s not a great success story, but his words made me smile.
I know his home life, and things aren’t easy for this 10-year-old. On this day, however, he got to be 10. He was able to see every aquarium exhibit three times, pretend to be a turtle, and build a sandcastle.

I understand that my time with him over the years and all that I have tried to teach him may not be enough to get him past the situation in which he lives. Like the rest of the children with whom I’ve worked, his story may not have a happy ending.

Nevertheless, I know that he had a good time that day. He was happy for an entire day, and I think that’s something.

I’m going to keep trying, no matter the outcome, and I encourage other caring adults to do the same. Be the one caring adult. They need you.

Nathan Rice is a Hampton Roads native and can be reached at