I was invited to Lebanon High School this past week for a special showing of He Named Me Malala, the story behind the Pakistani young woman, now 18, who won the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize. Her father named her after Malalai, a Pashtun heroine of a bygone era. Some have said that Ziauddin Yousafzai, her father and a teacher who is also not afraid to speak up for the truth, pushed Malala into her current position as an activist for girls' education. Malala adamantly refutes this and says all he did was show her where the door was. It was her choice to walk through it.
As I watched the account of this extraordinary young woman, Malala Yousafzai who at age 14 stood up to the Taliban, who run her country by various decrees including the idea that women should not be educated, I was struck by her incredible courage. For speaking out, she was shot in the head, by order of the Taliban and nearly died. She still has some significant loss of nerves to her face, hearing and other basic functions due to her injuries and yet she soldiers on. She and her family now live in England and do mourn the fact that they are not able to return to their homeland. And it makes me wonder...how many of us could have stood up to those threatening our lives when we were still just teenagers? How many of us could do it now, as full-fledged adults?
Even more basic, as I watched, I thought once again, as I have many times, of how blessed I am simply to have been born when and where I was. In a large portion of the modern world, girls and women are still subjected to incredible prejudice and abuse, simply because of their gender. It is not something we spend a lot of time thinking about. As a matter of fact, if we start fussing about sexual discrimination, it is more likely to have something to do with finances--such as hiring practices, a substandard paycheck or the cost of health care. It is not to say that any of those are unimportant but they have to get in line behind basics like education, the right to choose who you will marry, or not to be traded off for a few goats or these days, flat out sold for cash or drugs directly into the sex trade. It is not something we think about often and yet, for so many of our sisters around the world, it is a daily reality.
And from there, my mind wandered a bit closer to home, to some I've met along my way as a writer, including a young lady in Bolivar, born with no legs and no hands. She still gets up every day, faces the world with an incredible Christian spirit and has excelled as an artist, a writer having already penned her own autobiography before age 30, a college student and a world traveler. Or the farm wife and mother of four I found most recently just a short way up the interstate highway, who was severely injured when hit head-on by a drunk driver. She left the scene that night with internal injuries, a fractured pelvis and crushed ankles. Today, after multiple operations, she still struggles to keep her balance when she walks with the aid of braces and lace-up boots, yet she is back working as a farm wife, tending to cattle on a daily basis. And like the lady in Bolivar, she does it with a joyful heart and an overwhelming attitude of Christian love and forgiveness.
As one who has a family history of depression and has fought that monster many times over the years, I try to remember these remarkable sisters of mine and many others on days like yesterday when I'd like to just stay at home on a cold, gloomy, rainy day and have my own 'pity party'. No reason for it, mind you, except my own fouled up bio-chemistry, but still if I can remind myself to read my Bible and remember ladies like Malala and many others, I have a better day. Yesterday, I spent the day at home, reading and writing, curled up warm by the fire. I didn't go out but it was still a good day, a day of remembering blessings of all kinds, especially the basics. I'm so glad I accepted the invitation to go see a movie earlier this week. God bless the many Malalas in our world!