A young activist was born as Olivia May, 5, watched her mother, Meg May, prepare signs to protest in support of Black Lives Matter.
In the wake of George Floyd's death at the hands of Minneapolis police and months into the coronavirus pandemic, the social climate was tense.
“One day, she just looked at me and said, 'Mommy, I want to make signs,'” May said.
May agreed, figuring Olivia meant to decorate her signs with rainbows or unicorns.
But the young Zelienople resident wanted to follow her mother's example of activism. She had a different cause in mind: protecting animals, one duck at a time. “She said, 'I want to make signs because speeding and killing ducks is not OK,'” May said.
“I don't want them to die,” Olivia said. “They deserve to live happy with their families.”
To champion her cause, Olivia made two signs, one of which reads, “Slow Down; I (heart) Ducks; Olivia, 5.”
May and her husband, Kevin May, supported their daughter as she installed them along West Beaver Street in Zelienople June 23.
Meg May expected them to stay up a week. But one is still standing. The other was replaced after it blew away in a storm.
Children traditionally follow the examples set by the adults in their lives. At a time when many adults are frustrated, angry or scared, May is aware of the weight her example carries.
“(Kids) are always watching you, even when you don't think they are,” May said. “This is our opportunity to show them (how) to be the good in the world.”
Olivia, whom May describes as an “old soul,” said like people, ducks are special. She believes keeping them safe from speeders is every person's responsibility because “God created us to be loving and kind.”
“My daughter isn't afraid to be exactly who she is,” May said. “She knows what is right, and she will take action to make 'right' happen.”
Honesty, loyalty and humanity are traits May especially deems important as well as acts of love, kindness and acceptance.
“I'm very open and honest with my daughter,” May said. “I always have been.”
May spent June reading with Olivia about Black women in history. This project fed Olivia's fixation on gymnast and Olympian Gabby Douglas, according to May.
“Olivia is obsessed with Gabby Douglas and how strong she is,” May said.
Learning by example is key to helping Olivia understand the world in which she lives, according to May.
In an era disrupted by a pandemic and fraught with civil unrest, May plans to continue teaching Olivia to do what's right — even when it's hard. “Love and kindness go a long way in this world,” May said.
Olivia's deeds, according to May, are full of kindness and love. And her soft spot for the underdog — or underduck — makes her one young lady with a balanced understanding of the world.
May said she'll support her daughter in everything she does. “She knows what's right and she stood up for the ducks,” May said. “I'm so very proud of who she is and who she will become.”