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#LetsTellHer to Use Her Voice

By Sunshine Richards on 03/21/2018 | General

As a Heart & Sole coach, I get to spend time running and learning with a fun group of middle school girls.  Our team had a lesson on Romantic Relationships yesterday. I was so excited for this one because I have so many thoughts on this topic - they are mostly empowering and probably not overly cynical thoughts. But for all of my excitement about this practice, I didn't get to go. I had to work late, which was disappointing.

Working as a high school testing coordinator, I often have to stay late at school on testing days. And while I don’t love my work administering standardized tests, it does allow me many opportunities to sit one-on-one with high school students that are experiencing enormous stress over test-related graduation requirements on top of some very tumultuous life experiences. Yesterday was one of those days. It was a long, exhausting, stressful day and I didn’t even get to go to the Heart & Sole practice I was so looking forward to.

But here's what I did get to do: I got to spend some time being reminded about how impressive young teenage girls can be. After a ten-hour day doing work that I find little enjoyment or meaning in, I had one of the most engaging conversations I've had in quite some time with a high school girl. I mean, I hadn't even had a chance to eat lunch. It was 5:30pm and I had completely forgotten that my body was well into the process of consuming itself. I love the food and I hadn't had any all day, but I didn't even notice once we started talking. That's how impressive this child was.

As we waited for her parents to pick her up, we talked about her life, her struggles, her history of poor choices, her decision to change her life, her dreams, her goals, her reality. We talked about theater and politics and our criminal justice system. I told her about my history and passion for working with at-risk youth. She told me about her experiences as one. It was as enlightening a conversation as I have had in recent weeks. 

I believe our hour-long conversation ended in a yoga-esque "the strong, intelligent woman in me recognizes the strong, intelligent woman in you" type of closing.

It's possible I got a little teary-eyed.

And in that moment, I realized that I've had several really solid conversations with young girls in recent months. Some of those conversations were with middle school girls on my Heart & Sole team. Some were with the high school students I work with. Some were with kids just out in the world.

Too often, we (myself included) look at teenage girls as being shallow, self-involved, judgmental, and superficial. Silly. That's really how we cast young girls today, right? Remember the group of selfie girls at the baseball game? No? Google baseball game selfie girls. You'll see what I mean. I'd post the picture here, but I'm pretty sure it's copyrighted. (Note: Those were college girls and I recall reading that they were participating in a social media promotion put on by the baseball stadium. Nevertheless, it seems to be our standard view of girls.)

But when you engage these girls in real conversations, they've got things to say. They've got devastating stories to share. They've got insights into real-world issues and solutions to suggest. Contrary to what some of us might believe, they think quite a lot about their world and the things that need to change and how to change them.

If we don't give them a place to share those stories and insights and solutions, we're missing out. Eventually, they'll just outgrow us and leave us behind; obsolete and trying to remember where we put our glasses.

So, #LetsTellHer to use her voice, even when much of the world is unwilling to acknowledge it. Because eventually we'll get on her level and hear what she has to say. It may take us some time. Grown folks can be a little obtuse, but we'll get there.

 

Sunshine Richards

Author

Sunshine Richards is a coach and SoleMate for Girls on the Run and Heart & Sole. She is passionate about running, reading, writing, and helping girls and women find their power. Headshot: Michelle Behrns.

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