It seems like lately the media is full of news about adults behaving badly. From the stories of sexual harassment and victimization of girls and women, to shootings and hate crimes, to sniping and name-calling by our elected officials. It’s disheartening and exhausting.
But every time I’m feeling beaten down by how entrenched and resistant the inequitable status quo is, some young person comes along and blows my mind with their audacious commitment to a better future for all of us.
So, this Thanksgiving I’m grateful that every day my hope and faith is rekindled by the youth who are getting it right.
I’m grateful for the movie Wonder, about a boy, Augie, who is born with a rare genetic condition who has to be brave in the face of bullies and teasing, and the fact that it’s reaching so many people. And I’m grateful that a story like this, where the superheroes are Augie and his parents and teachers who teach him the lessons of kindness and forgiveness, can hold its own against that other kind of superhero blockbuster: Wonder grossed $27 million at the box office last weekend, up against Justice League.
I’m also grateful for children like my friend’s 11-year-old daughter Mara. I overheard her on the phone the other day telling her mom about something she’d achieved in school, saying “I’m proud of myself.” I don’t remember feeling proud of myself at that age, and even if I had, I never would have said it aloud. When I was a kid, girls could be happy about our accomplishments but not proud. “Proud,” unlike “happy,” was linked to power, and would have been perceived as boasting. So, I’m profoundly grateful for girls like her, who have been given permission to feel their own sense of self-worth and power.
I’m thrilled when I hear about young women and girls standing up to redefine gender roles and to insist that neither boys nor girls be hemmed in and limited by old notions of what girls and boys should or shouldn’t do. I have a colleague with twin daughters, one of whom made the choice to join Girl Scouts and the other Boy Scouts, unafraid to be themselves, go after what makes them engaged and excited, and dress and express themselves as unique individuals.
The other day, I almost lost my breath watching an interview with the brilliant 12-year old, Marley Dias, who started the 1000 Black Girls Books Campaign, collecting books where black girls are the main characters and encouraging young people of every gender and hue to read. Thank you Marley! And thank you to Marley’s parents, teachers and communities, who support her dream.
Meanwhile, I have always been grateful for my hometown of Baltimore, no matter the negative press we’ve gotten, both before and after the Freddie Gray unrest. The powerful documentary Baltimore Rising, directed by Sonja Sohn aired on HBO last night, and reminded me how blessed Baltimore and our whole country is to have the bright lights of young people such as Makayla Gilliam, who are demanding justice and are selfless in their work, to create a better life for others.
I’m also grateful for my own son, and the amazing man he’s become. I’ve watched him fight off the curriculum of sexism and patriarchy that all boys are exposed to and become an emotionally competent man who has learned to be an upstander for women, people of color, and other marginalized people.
Finally, one of the most exciting reasons I’m shouting “Glory to God” this Thanksgiving season is the arrival of a new baby in our family, my grand-nephew, Braven. He arrived just a few days ago and I’m hopeful and thankful that this child will be raised to be brave and strong and kind by his beautiful parents and our growing family.
I’m grateful that in light of all the not-so-great news out there, there are young people giving me and all of us hope that we’re still heading toward a better, kinder and more equitable world.
Who are the young people you’re inspired by and grateful for? Share your stories with the hashtag #ThanksYoungFolks. And have a wonderful Thanksgiving.