Great Good Skateboarders

The young boys of summer pedal short-wheeled bikes like dogs treading water. Their skateboards scrape down the street like ocean surf on a rocky shore before a blow.

They travel in convoys. They travel solitary. They travel oblivious to pedestrians, cars, and curbs - definitely oblivious to curbs. Their footwear - sneakers, unlaced, two sizes too big.

With the end of summer, and the possibility that some will show up at the school doorstep wearing shoes, what should always be remembered about these wonderful pedaling and kicking dynamos is the spontaneous good brimming within young hearts.

Each child possesses wholesome intuitions that easily humble adults.

For the last four years, starting when he was 8, Brandon Keefe transformed a concern about a problem his mother faced into a program that puts books in the hands of hundreds of less fortunate children.

Brandon gathered used books, his own and from his friends, and then surprised his mother with them so that she could stock the shelves of the special library where she was a volunteer tutor.

From like-minded classmates all over town, the giving blossomed and continues as school doors swing open for a new year.

From the first moment he sensed a need, Brandon was not the least tentative. He demonstrated a philosophy of giving every bit as purposeful as jumping on a bike and heading for the beach.

He acted on the idea of doing good, of sharing, in a context he understood, in a way he could control, and knew would be well received.

In his now classic children's tale "E.T. - The Extra Terrestrial," Steven Spielberg creates an image that immortalizes childhood. Set against a moonscape, a boy pedals an airborne bike while transporting an alien on the handlebars.

The picture is part of the national psyche. Peter Pan is no match for the sentiment captured - childhood nobly expressing adult responsibility for the helpless.

The homesick E.T. is rescued from death and dissection.

In another Spielberg movie, "Empire of the Sun," a boy in love with airplanes, a boy about Brandon's age, is separated from his parents in Shanghai, China, as the Japanese invade in 1937.

He spends horrible years in a prisoner-of-war camp. But his love of flying is so innocently expressed that even his brutal captors respect him. He leaves the camp a man, with the boy inside intact.

What Mr. Speilberg evokes better than any other living American director is awe for the profound accomplishments boys and girls are capable of because they so easily start with pure, heartfelt intentions.

Before we demand of children that they grow up, we should be certain we have grown young. We must always learn from their spontaneous examples of great good.

Brandon Keefe gives us such an example.

* Comments or questions? Write to Ideas Editor, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, or e-mail

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