October 6, 2011

The Girl Effect

I met her a few months after her 13th birthday and a few months after I graduated college. I met her in the room next to the one-room office we worked in, all five of us. She arrived for the Kids Against Tobacco meeting dressed just like most of the other 13 year-olds - short skirts with heavy-eyeliner. They wore their budding sexuality like a billboard. She had, they all had, a softness masked by skateboard shoes and mascara. She squealed when I told her she had been chosen to go to the Kids Against Tobacco conference and threw her arms around her friend. Even if they tried to forget, I could not - they were only 13. Still children. Strong children, but children.

Sometime in late September, I began spending an hour a week with her, just the two of us. She bounced around the room and talked over me and climbed over her friends in our afternoon meetings, full of energy and life. But when it was just the two of us, she gave her all to whatever project I had concocted for us. She gave her all to our conversations. She gave her all to her troubles and then to her hopes and dreams.

And she had so many. Troubles. Hopes. Dreams.

She could tell you stories of what it is to go without. She could tell you stories that would break your heart. Those are her stories to tell. I will tell you of everything she had and continues to have. 


I floundered a bit that year. Trying to find my place in a new town, a new environment, a new role, a new life. Without knowing it, she pulled me into the very best of the community and the very best of myself. On days I woke in the morning feeling uncertain, insecure, and scared, I swung my feet to the floor and began my day because I wanted to show up for her. I wanted to be my best for her. She deserved no less. And over time, she showed me that I, too, deserved no less.

The Girl Effect is a movement to invest in adolescent girls in the developing world. I encourage investment in adolescent girls in the "developed" world, also. Because they have both so little and so much. Because they deserve the opportunity to be the best they can be. And because we deserve the opportunity to be the best we can be. That opportunity works in both directions. That's one of the very many life lessons she taught me. 

More on the Girl Effect here
Link your Girl Effect post here.

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