5 Lessons from 'Caine's Arcade'

Posted on April 15th, 2012
Caine Monroy

The newest celebrity on the Internet is a nine year old kid from East Los Angeles. If you haven't heard of Caine Monroy, he's the star of a short film by Nirvan Mullick that has gone viral on YouTube and Vimeo. Since "Caine's Arcade" was posted last week, it has been viewed around 4 million times between the two video sharing sites. And a college fund the filmmaker set up for Caine now has over $151,000 in it.

If you haven't seen the video yet, watch it below, then scroll down and I'll tell you why I think "Caine's Arcade" has struck a chord, and I'll also share a few lessons I believe we can learn from this kid.

On The Fox Report newscast last night, someone mentioned that this video has been making grown men cry. Perhaps it's because it connects so many of us to our childhoods. I remember being Caine's age and building vending machines out of cardboard boxes. You probably remember doing something similar when you were a kid. If you did, this video will make you feel like a kid again, at least for a few minutes.

But there's more to this story than stirring up nostalgia and sentimentality—there are some simple lessons in the video that we can benefit from if we'll pay attention:

A positive attitude pays off. Caine Monroy sets up a "business" where there there is little foot traffic, and until the filmmaker comes along, he has no customers. But day after day, he doesn't get discouraged, and he doesn't give up. In fact, he keeps building games for his arcade. Because of his positive attitude and perseverance, this kid is probably going to do something huge someday.

Sometimes you need to learn to work with what little you have before you're given more. Creative people are going to find a way to make things. And in some way, most of us are creative. Caine creates his games from used cardboard boxes and odds and ends in his dad's used auto parts store. His industriousness and resourcefulness are pretty impressive.

Sometimes you have to be persistent. His father's auto parts store isn't in a great part of town anyway, and most of the business is done on eBay, so there aren't many potential customers for Caine. But he keeps asking people to play his games, and he doesn't give up because people say no.

Fathers are important. Caine's dad is quietly supportive. He gives him space to build his arcade (partly to keep the kid occupied, granted) and he encourages him. But I also get the impression that this man doesn't coddle his son. In the film, Caine's dad doesn't try to protect him from disappointment or failure. The fact is, just being there for his kid is the biggest thing a father can do. I wonder how much of Caine's work ethic and positive attitude comes from watching his dad constantly reinventing a declining auto parts store.

We need to recover our childhood wonder. Somewhere between the ages of 10 and 30, many of us forget how to dream the way a kid dreams. And it's a shame. Cynicism has taken its toll on our culture, which is part of the reason so many of us fall into a pessimistic existence. We don't dream as big, and we stop believing we can do great things. Instead of really living life, we settle for just getting through it. When I watched this video, I thought about when Jesus said to become like children. The wonder, the excitement, the simple belief that we can accomplish huge things—that's part of what we need to rediscover.

This video is about one kid, but there are kids everywhere like Caine who need encouragement. I was a latchkey kid in the 80's and I thought I was forced to grow up fast, but I didn't have anything on kids today. Too many of them are already losing hope by the time they reach middle school, and it's heartbreaking.

"Caine's Arcade" is a reminder of the good things that can still happen in America.


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