For nearly six years, comedian Mike King has been taking his message of unconditional love and hope to schools and communities around New Zealand.
While some might see problems, every time he stands in front of a hall full of secondary school pupils he sees promise and potential, King says.
His aim is to inspire attitudinal change, build self-esteem and normalise everyone’s inner critic – the little voice in our heads – to make it OK to be a flawed person.
“And we talk to the people who are not in crisis, whose often judgemental attitude is having the greatest effect on those people in crisis.”
He shares his own story, and his cellphone number and email address.
“You can’t go into a school, talk about a topic, an inner critic, which no-one has ever talked about before, and then go, ‘my job is done’.
“People have questions, and if you are saying you care about people, it’s fair enough to give them a way of contacting you.
“Out of 1000 kids, I might get seven or eight texts.
“A couple of them want to know if it’s really me, three or four of them will just want some reassurance that they are OK and two of them will become friends for life.”
Each time he speaks to a school, or to a community – he was in Timaru last week for a community talk on Thursday night and a school talk at Mountainview High School the following morning – there are encounters that make it worthwhile.
“Yesterday, when I asked, ‘how many kids are feeling really confident right now?
“How many kids aren’t feeling confident, or are in crisis?” .. The shock on the teachers’ faces .. And a young Maori boy came up afterwards and gave me a big hug and said, ‘that’s such a relief’ – to know he wasn’t the only one who felt like that.”