The International Day of the Girl is a big day in our house. From the heroes like Malala to Yusra to the entrepreneurs or health advocates or innovators or champions we know and love…there is no shortage of inspiring people who teach and inspire us. I am grateful to all of them. They are helping me and my wife raise a house of people – girls AND boys – who understand that respect is more than gallantry…and that opportunity for girls in women is something we create not just debate. And we are a family who loves the GirlUp Campaign! (learn more at www.girlup.org) So my house is a place where my daughters, especially my middle schooler and first-grader, love to rally around this important international moment.
But the other day I was reminded why there are so many Girl Heroes in my house. It is not just about my work. It is not just about our opinions as professionals or what we value in society. It is not just about how we were raised or the women pioneers in our life and religion and society. Like so many things, it comes down to my wife.
Emily was on the phone. She was talking to a colleague at work during one of those busy Saturdays when we were actually at home between soccer games and playdates and birthday parties and chores and church events, etc. (You know those Saturdays. The ones where you need a weekend to recover from your weekend? It was one of those.). We were bustling around the house trying to get everything in order before the next round of drop-offs or meetings. The phone rang. I could hear Emily giving some counsel and brainstorming with her colleague as they prepared for a big presentation. Emily was walking around the house as was I. I think we were putting away groceries while folding laundry, or some other ridiculous juggling exercise all too common for a suburban Saturday. Midway through the conversation another call must have come through, because she changed her tone and I could tell it was a personal matter with a friend. She turned to me and said, “I need to focus. Someone needs help.” So Emily walked into a quiet(er) part of the house (if such a thing exists in our home) and was listening carefully as her friend chatted with her.
This is a normal vignette of a typical U.S. family on a Saturday, right? No major crisis. No looming doom. No “emergency” situation that would make what was happening notable in a world where there are health crises, humanitarian emergencies and political urgencies. But what my baby daughter did at that moment made all the difference.
Our little daughter, all full of curls and verve, could sense the change in Emily’s tone. She had been sitting on her chair devouring her bottle as if there was a global milk shortage on the horizon. (If you know our little one, you know she LOVES her milk.) I was amazed, and humbled, as she walked around the house so she could be with Emily while she was undertaking what was clearly the most important thing at that moment: helping a friend.
I watched as the baby followed her voice until she found her in the living room, sitting on the couch. She jumped into her lap and finished her bottle listening to the voice of her mom as she helped a friend.
That, I decided, is what raises a #GirlHero. Someone who is there to help. Someone who knows what it means to offer a listening ear in a time of need. Her tone sent a signal to my daughter. My daughter wanted to follow. She clearly felt just as safe and valued as the person on the other end of the telephone line.
Now, for the record, Emily works on all the other important issues that are being talked about today. From maternal health to girls’ empowerment to justice and peace. But our toddler daughter reminded me that true heroes listen. True heroes help. True heroes are ready to answer the call. That’s why she sought out my wife and wanted to sit there with her. It is why I choose to follower her example as well. We cannot make progress on any of the other issues if we are not ready to help a friend.
There’s lots to do this International Day of the Girl. Today I salute the woman who reminds me that we can only help if we are available and listen. I salute the woman raising the girl heroes in my home.