Childhood Family

The internet: Not always awful.

I think we can agree that, oftentimes, the internet is really just an awful place. If you are in doubt of that, just visit any YouTube comment section. I was going to give you an example of some, but pretty much every popular nice, sweet and innocent video I went to had comments so vile and hateful that I felt dirty after kicking around for about two minutes.

That said, the internet does have its redeeming qualities. For example, in the fall, when we are traveling on a Sunday, my son can give be a play-by-play commentary for football games, watching live feeds of NFL games. Or, you can use it to find virtually any recipe you want, which is fantastic, but I would like it known that no one — no one — wants to read an essay before you get to the recipe. Gimme the measurements and the oven settings.

Or, it can be when good folks come together to help out a 10-year-old on a school project.

My nephew Sam has to do a state project, and he chose Washington, as his teacher is from there. He sent a letter to the governor’s office to request information.

Now, I remember being his age and having a similar project. I chose Massachusetts, as my aunt and uncle lived there at the time. I wrote a similar letter (with no doubt awful handwriting), and a few weeks later received an awesome package in the mail with gobs of brochures and maps and such. It. Was. Awesome. I don’t remember what I got on my project, but I assume it was an A++++.

Well, imagine Sam’s disappointment when his package arrived. It was a single sheet of paper. Among the things in the letter, it said, “Due to budget constraints, we are no longer sending packets of information. However, a wide array of information is available on the Governor’s website and other state websites.”

What followed was a paragraph highlighting these websites, and included hyperlinks to various sites. Not sure when the last time you tried to click on a hyperlink on a printed piece of paper, but, yeah, you can’t. Because it’s on printed paper, and NOT THE INTERNET!

This bothered me. I get that budgets are tight. And I understand that we want our public officials to be good stewards of our money. But it’s a 10-year-old! Wanting to learn about your state! Is there that much demand for the Evergreen State info from elementary school kids? How big does the budget have to be to throw a few pamphlets in the mail?

So, with my sister’s OK, I went to a few Washington-centric message boards and posted a link to the letter he received and a plea to help out a 10-year-old. I said:

My nephew is 10, and was really excited about his project on Washington, as his teacher is from there. Unfortunately, budget cuts have apparently nixed getting a cool package of Washington-specific stuff. If there is anyone out there who might be able to help him out, that would be awesome. Also, it would further cement my status as Uncle Awesome.”

And this is yet another time when the internet is not awful. About a week later, I had received several packages from folks who had gathered up brochures, guides, maps, etc. all about Washington. Those folks didn’t have to do that at all, but it’s a great reminder that awesome people do exist, and, yes, they exist on the internet.

I gave my nephew is Washington packet the other day, and I can’t wait to img_0887see his project. He’s got plenty of information, and, as I told my sister, the pamphlets that were sent make me want to go visit Washington.

I hope the Washington governor’s office will reconsider their stance on not sending out packets. Maybe they need to have some guidelines that can help keep the budget lean, such as, I don’t know, when it’s a 10-year-old in South Carolina trying to learn about your state, it’s OK to send some stuff.

Even if they don’t change their policy, I’m so glad some folks stepped up and helped out a kid trying to do a project. It’s what makes the internet not so awful.

Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, he now lives in Mt. Pleasant. You can e-mail him at or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.


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