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Encouraging Heroes. You can be one too.

One of the shiniest objects in our solar system can teach us a great lesson about making quick assumptions. Enceladus (pronounced en-SELL-uh-dus) is a bright white moon orbiting Saturn. Completely covered in ice, at first glance it comes across as a barren place, a lonely, frozen outpost about 800 million miles from Earth.

But wait. The tiny moon is very active, churning inside because of the strong tidal forces of Saturn. As a result, huge plumes of water – yes, liquid water – shoot out as geysers, causing scientists to rethink the whole ‘barren’ notion.

In fact, Enceladus is now considered the most likely spot for us to discover life beyond Earth. That frozen shell masks a warmer ocean, one that’s potentially teeming with life, hidden away beneath a thin outer layer.

All we have to do is look below the surface.

People can be like that deceptive little world, hiding a wealth of interesting components that we fail to see at first.

A high school senior in Colorado composed a commencement address for her graduation ceremony that pointed out this very concept. She spotlighted another senior who was primarily known on campus as a quiet but competent athlete. That was what most students saw – and stopped there.

Beneath that surface layer, however, was a student with a 3.9 GPA; a student who rode and cared for horses; a student whose sculpture recently won a prestigious national art scholarship, one of only a handful in the country and the first ever in her home state.

Yet her fellow students knew nothing of these accomplishments. They saw her as the jock, and that was it.

It’s not surprising. We live in a first-glance society, barely bothering to look up from our screens to see beyond the top layer of people around us. Investing time to learn more – to actually ask questions – often pays off in ways we could never imagine.

But do we take the time to do that?

One of the most enlightening moments in a teenager’s life is when she realizes that people are so much more than what we see on the outside. That shy girl in the back of the room may be an extraordinarily talented musician. The class clown may secretly write the most amazing poetry. The football hero might spend several hours a month with his family helping out at a women’s shelter.

But those accomplishments aren’t what other students notice, and it’s difficult for young people to see past labels. That’s what we, as parents, are here to do: To help our kids learn how to peel back the outer layer.

To discover the wondrous secrets that almost everyone has beneath the surface.

Dom Testa is an author, speaker, morning radio show host, and has kept a ficus tree alive for twenty-three years. He’s also the founder and president of The Big Brain Club, a non-profit foundation that helps young people embrace the idea that Smart Is Cool. More info at www.DomTesta.com.

Image courtesy of Marc Van Norden via Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.