Open Letter to the American 2nd Grader

In early February 2021, a close friend of mine on the East coast told me about a speech-writing essay assignment she was planning with her students. This is a 2nd Grade public school classroom we're talking about here. I decided to write a 2nd Grade essay of my own, to be read to her class while the project was being introduced. Although this piece was originally written for one specific classroom, it should remain useful to any and all elementary school-aged children in America.

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Original essay title:

The Simple Secret to Living a Happy and Healthy Life, Even in the Middle of a Pandemic!


Covid-19 has changed our lives dramatically. For almost a year now, we’ve been forced to make some major changes to the way we live. For most of us, these changes have not been easy. For many of us, these changes have in fact been devastating.


But I have some good news for you.


And by you, I mean you, the 2nd Graders of America!


My name is Mr. Allen. I used to be a teacher, but these days, I’m a writer.


Since the pandemic began, I’ve been reading books by scientists and historians who study the lives of our ancestors.


Err, what’s an “ancestor?” Our ancestors are the members of our families who died hundreds and thousands of years ago. And guess what? Our ancestors can teach us something incredible.


Something so incredible, actually, that you’re probably not even going to believe it!


Here’s the thing…Me, and you, and everyone you know, are animals! That’s right, your teacher is an animal! Your cousins are animals too, and SO ARE YOU!


Some adults will hear this and say, “That’s ridiculous! I’m not an animal, I’m a human being!” Well, sure, it’s true you are a human being. But the thing is, according to the scientists and historians, it’s also true that you are an animal, too.


Of course, we’re different from most other animals.


Squirrels can’t talk and fish can’t dance.


But just because we think we’re smarter than other animals, that doesn’t change the fact that we are what we are: animals (too).


So…what sort of animal are we? The name of our species is Homo Sapiens. Your dentist, my annoying neighbor, and the richest person on Earth, all of them are Homo Sapiens.


The reason why many of us feel unhappy and unhealthy these days, is because we’ve forgotten the history of our ancestors. We’ve forgotten who, and what, we really are. But the simple key to living a healthy and happy life is this: Never forget that you’re an animal, so act like it!


We are Homo Sapiens. Our ancestors have been around for 300,000 years! And you know what else? We are the most intelligent and most successful animals ever!


But here’s the problem: for 99.9% of our history, our ancestors lived in a way that was extremely different from how most of us live our lives today. Don’t get me wrong, their lives were not easy. Thousands of years ago, Homo Sapiens had zero malls to shop in, so they had to find or make every single thing they wore with their own two hands.


But even though their lives were far less convenient than ours are today, our Homo Sapiens ancestors were actually far HAPPIER and HEALTHIER than most of us are today!


How can this be? Well, turns out that our ancestors had lifestyles that were far more simple than ours are today. And sometimes, in life, simple is the best way to go!


Check this out, the main things our ancestors did to stay happy and healthy are things that ALL OF US could easily start doing today.


We’re talking about learning to do some basic things that are good for you. Basic things you can do every single day of your life. Basic things that are 100% FREE!


You don’t need to go buy anything to be happy, you just need to start behaving like the animal that you truly are!


There are three big things that all Homo Sapiens need in order to be happy and healthy:


1. Exercise every single day!


Just like our ancestors, we were born to be on our feet, basically all day. It’s fine to sit down sometimes, like during class or when you’re eating dinner with your family. But it is NOT HEALTHY for Homo Sapiens like us to be sitting down ALL or even MOST of the day. Our ancestors walked miles and miles every single day! They chased down animals they were hunting, and sometimes climbed up trees to escape a lion trying to hunt them!


We were built to move our bodies. You don’t need a gym or equipment or anything fancy. Just move your body as much as you can every day. Walk, run, jump, climb, and play, just like the animal that you are!


Oh…but what about Covid? Never fear! Are you stuck inside at home right now in some tiny apartment because of the pandemic? Bummer. But…still not an excuse to not get the movement that you need. Come on now, get creative. Do some jumping jacks in your bedroom. Not tired yet? How many push-ups can you do? Sit ups? Can you touch your toes?


2. Be careful what you eat and drink!


There are so many tasty foods at the grocery store. I love to eat Pop Tarts and ice cream and gummy bears. But guess what? A lot of those tasty foods we love are actually TERRIBLE for our health!


Think about it, our ancestors did not have grocery stores to shop in. The ONLY things they ate were natural foods they found in their environment. Our ancestors mostly ate nuts, fruits, and vegetables they found around them. Want to be healthy, avoid sickness and live a long life? Eat simple, natural foods as much as you can, and quit eating junk food that comes in plastic wrappers as much as possible.


3. Relationships, Relationships, Relationships!


Homo Sapiens were meant to hang out with each other all day, every day. There’s a good reason why most of us feel safe and comfortable around our close friends and families. This is because for 99.9% of our history, we counted on our friends and families to help us survive in the wild. It’s extremely difficult to survive all alone. But when you’re with your friends and family, you are far safer and more relaxed than you ever would be on your own.


Today, there are scientists who study human happiness. These scientists ask the question, “What do people really need in order to be happy?” These days, many of us are fooling ourselves about what will make us happy. Many of us think that getting rich, or becoming famous will make us happy for the rest of our lives. But don’t get tricked people! This is nothing but an illusion.


Sure, it’s nice to have money, and it might feel exciting to become famous, at least at first. But the truth is, all the evidence proves that true human happiness is far simpler, and far more available to each and every one of us, no matter how much money we have, or how many so called, “followers” or “friends” we have on social media.


The number one best thing you can do in order to live a happy and healthy life is this: develop, maintain, and cherish the relationships you have with the people who are most important to you in your life.


All throughout our history, Homo Sapiens never gave a crap about the approval of total strangers they’d never even met! Instead, they did what they were built to do, and what you and I were built to do: hang out and have fun with real people in real life!


The simplest key to happiness is to build strong, meaningful relationships with a small number of people who you actually see on a regular basis. What can you do to be a better daughter? Or a better son? What can you do to be a better brother? Or a better sister? What can you do to be a better neighbor? Or a better friend?


If you really want to change the world, the best place to start is simply by focusing on yourself. Are you living like the Homo Sapien that you truly are?


Every day, ask yourself, am I sitting down on a chair or on the couch most of the day? If so, you better get up and start moving your body!


Am I eating too much junk food out of plastic wrappers? If so, you better find a way to get yourself some fruit, some nuts, or something else that’s actually healthy for you to eat!


Am I spending most of my day staring at a screen on a phone, computer or TV? If so, you better put the technology down, and go do something fun with real people who you enjoy spending time with!


Life right now can feel tough. But that doesn’t mean we all have to be miserable.


So, if you want to be happy, if you want to be healthy, just remember what you really are: a special type of animal, called a Homo Sapien.


Now start acting like it!