I don’t know if it’s a sad day when we have to look to a child to show us the way out of our human dilemma or it’s a good day when such a young person can inspire us. But then hasn’t it always been the way? Didn’t Buddha wander throughout the land as a young boy to meditate and learn all the things he needed to know to set out the basis to live by? And didn’t Jesus enter the temple at age twelve? And didn’t Joan of Arc lead the French armies to victory before being burned at the stake at age of nineteen?
And in recent times didn’t David Suzuki’s daughter address the United Nations on environmental issues that shocked everybody into paying attention? And then there was the Kielberg kid who one-upped Jean Chretien at the United Nations when he was just a little shaver.
Then of course, there is Malala Youstafzai, an ordinary Pakistani girl growing up in a beautiful neighborhood in Pakistan with a penchant for learning – until the Taliban showed up. They came, closed and bombed schools, murdered teachers and students alike and disallowed education altogether.
That was too much for Malala. They would not deny her or any of the other girls their education, so she began to speak out about it. Of course, you know the rest. She was targeted on a school bus going home from classes and shot in the head and left for dead.
Thanks to the heroics of the medical teams in the U.K. and the diplomatic services, Malala pulled through. She lost many things in the ordeal – her hearing in one ear, the sight in one eye and so on. But she never lost her focus on girls’ education, and she never gained an ounce of fear of her enemies. In fact if anything, she gained the ability to categorize them with laser precision. They’re afraid, she said. Knowledge is power and they’re afraid of that.
The whole business seems to have lit a fire in her belly to carry on and advocate on behalf of girls and women throughout the world. But make no mistake. This is not a child or young woman who has tunnel vision on only education. This is a young lady who possesses the emotions of most of us. When an interviewer asked her if her father would be angry if he adopted her, Malala, surprised by the inference, exploded in uproarious laughter and her smile lit up the entire room. Only a few moments before in the interview she was asked what her feeling was about the Taliban who targeted her. She said her first instinct was to take off her shoe and hit him with it. But then she thought that would only lower her to the same level as him. Instead she said she would also advocate for education for his daughters as well and he would do what he would do. She was not afraid.
From up here on the top shelf, all I can say is Wow! Let us never curb the aspirations or the inspiration of our children. They are our last hope for sanity in this convoluted world we’ve created. At least that’s how it seems to me from up here on the top shelf.