I’m Nobody! Who are you?

late 19th century photo by Jacob Riis - Girl holding a baby, NYC

In the year that’s passed since The Virgin Cure was first published in Canada, I’ve had several readers comment (either in person, via email, or in online reviews) that they’re “glad life for girls isn’t like it was in the 19th century.”

Yes, in many ways, life has changed for the better, for both our daughters and our sons.

Yet somehow children worldwide are still struggling…to be safe, to be fed (body, mind and soul), and to be heard.

Like many people I know, I’ve been trying to make sense out of certain events that have happened in the last few weeks. A sixteen-year-old boy showing up on a doorstep in rural Nova Scotia, shackled, naked, a victim of abuse. Fifteen-year-old Malala Yousafzai being shot for expressing her belief  that all girls have the right to an education. Amanda Todd of Port Coquitlam, BC, also fifteen, taking her own life in response to the relentless personal attacks she’d suffered both physically and virtually.

I’ve been trying to find the right words to express how I feel, but everything I write feels flat, as if my thoughts will never hold enough power- to heal, to comfort, or to help countless other youth like Amanda.

My mother had a way of bringing young people to their best selves. Many of my friends throughout middle and high school were at ease when talking to her. She saw through our teen angst and got right to the heart of the matter. There was no fooling her; surrender, or be called out on your shit…(in, of course, the most artful, loving manner.)

She wasn’t trying to be another mother to my friends. She was simply connecting with them, human to human.

Sometimes there were tears.

But in the end there was always laughter.

Even strangers who crossed my mother’s path, at a park, in the grocery store, at the gas station, would get an extra pair of hands or some friendly words if she thought they needed it. She didn’t wait to be asked.

Human to human, simple as that.

I’m nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there’s a pair of us
Don’t tell—they’d banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public—like a frog—
To tell your name the livelong June
To an admiring bog!

– Emily Dickinson

I spent this past weekend at Blissdom Canada, a social media conference held in Toronto.  Honoured to be among the line up of fabulous speakers, I did my best to soak up as much of their wisdom, wit and advice as possible. One of the strongest messages I walked away with, was from Bonnie Stewart, who spoke about “how self works in a digital medium.” Towards the end of her talk, she said that one of the biggest dangers we face in the digital age is forgetting that there’s a human behind each computer. I heartily agree.

Human to human. We must not forget.

So today, the words I can find have somehow formed themselves into a pledge. Inspired by my mom and her no-nonsense way of making the world stop so she could listen, this is my Pledge for Digital Humanity.

I will listen.

I will be honest, (even if it scares me.)

I won’t take any voice for granted; yours or mine.

Pledge for Digital Humanity

 

 

Places and people  mentioned in this post: Blissdom Canada and the whip smart Bonnie Stewart.

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