A young woman named Malala Yousafzai shares the honours as winner of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. She missed out last year because the tall foreheads of the awards committee decided that a group called the ‘Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons’ was more worthy. I have no comments about the worthiness of the 2013 selection, given the atrocities that nations commit against their own citizens and others using weapons like chlorine gas. What strikes me though is how this young woman – targeted by the vicious Taliban for killing because she promoted schooling for young girls and education of women in Pakistan – not only recovered from a grievous wound to the head, but had the courage to continue to speak out against the injustice of men keeping women enslaved through ignorance and fear of reprisal for learning. She is wise beyond her years and in her short life has accomplished much more than I ever aspired to. Go, Malala, go!
As I reflect on another birthday and give thanks for my many blessings, I remember what I was like at seventeen. I was a nerd – honour roll, glee club, drama club, track and field, basketball, volleyball, cheerleader. Shy and skittish. A good little Catholic virgin terrified of rogue sperm on toilet seats and in public swimming pools. I worked behind the snack bar at the Lincoln Theatre (ummm, movie theatre popcorn) and at Towers store in the camera department (cheap jewellery and fuzzy sweater sets).
My two biggest worries then were perfecting my rifle drill in the Denis Morris Majestics Drum Corps Colour Guard so I wouldn’t make a fool of myself as we marched on St. Paul Street in St. Catharines during the Niagara Grape and Wine Festival Parade (I didn’t) and would my white boots blister up my feet (profuse bleeding at heel and toe). Next up, when we marched in the Pulaski Day parade in Buffalo, New York, would I get to see President John F. Kennedy (yes, sitting tanned and vigorous on the back window of a cream convertible).
Life has been very good to me. On this day perhaps more than any other day, I think of my mother and my father and the lives they bequeathed to their children. I am eternally grateful and hopelessly optimistic. There have been ups and downs and sideways, but as the saying goes, I’m still here. Young, old, thin, fat. Doesn’t matter as long as the days continue to unspool their skeins of surprises, adventure and new things. I still have a waistline and my own teeth. I don’t yet have cankles. There’s always lots of love and laughter. Every year has been a very good year, in its own way.
I wish Malala a long and successful life.