Malala returns to school. Picture courtesy of

Is there anyone in the world who hasn’t heard of Malala Yousafzai by now?  I remember when the young Pakistani girl was shot a year ago yesterday.  It was my daughter’s birthday and I could only imagine the horror her family was going through.  Maybe even wondering  if standing up for the right of girls’ to be educated was worth the cost of their own daughter’s life.  At least in that moment, I couldn’t see how Malala could survive.  But survive she did.  She not only survived, she is thriving.  Instead of being fearful and weakened by the horrible attack on her school bus which left 3 young girls seriously wounded, she has grown stronger, braver and yes, more powerful.  Malala has the attention of the world, and not just “ordinary citizens” or young girls, but world leaders.

You can look at a comprehensive article and interview the CBC  have, so I’m not going to rehash the history here.   Her father, an educator, believes in the right of girls to be educated.  Not so surprising that his daughters would hold the same belief.  Malala blogged about her thoughts and ideas prior to the attack and had already garnered an audience.  Of course this was not something the Taliban could allow to happen so the simplest solution was to remove the problem. But sometimes simple is rather complex.

I saw a clip on CNN.  It isn’t long, just part of an interview that Jon Stewart did with Malala the other day.  So wise; many of us would say “wise beyond her years”.  But I realized that it isn’t time that makes Malala wise.  It’s her ability to see and understand the world around her.  Malala, regardless of her age, looks beyond the surface, looks deeper and most importantly makes the connection.  That is something that even age does not always afford us.  Making the connection, understanding what is really important and not getting caught up in the emotions of revenge, hate, intolerance and fear.  Malala is extraordinary to me because she is living her life the way life should be lived – she, at this young age, is staying true to herself – and she’s sharing that with all of us.  She will not allow the Taliban to stop her believing in her dream, in making her dream a reality.  At the same time she offers only kindness to those who would offer her none.  That is the magic of Malala.

In the interview she spoke about what she would do if the Taliban tried to kill her again.  Her response was beautiful.   Basically, she said:

I used to think that the Talib would come and he would just kill me…  But then I said, if he comes what would I do?  I thought Malala just take a shoe and hit him.  But if you hit the Talib with the shoe there would be no difference between the Talib and you.  You must not treat others with that much cruelty and that much harshly.   You must fight others but through peace, dialogue and education.     I would tell him how important education is, and that I even want education for your children as well.  Then I would tell him, that is what I want to tell you now do what you want.

I’d really like to say that’s exactly what I’d say.  Not so sure it is though.  Malala, I still have a lot to learn from you.  As Jon Stewart said at the end of his interview… “You sure are swell.”  Yes, Malala, you certainly are swell – and a whole lot more.  You have us rising like air.  There really is hope.   Malala realizes that holding onto the old paradigm isn’t going to work.  Not only does she see that the belief in education for girls needs to change, but so does the response given when things don’t go the way we hope, at least not right away.  The shoe treatment – isn’t going to work.  The ripple effect of change.

If I step back and take a look, I realize that a whole myriad of  problems come down to fear of the unknown, or the assumption that we do know what’s going to happen, and it’s obviously going to be bad!  It’s always based on the assumptive fear that the change will ruin the world, or at least our corner of it.

I recently read a great line on Candy Coated Reality

In my mind, Merriam-Webster should define life as “Change. Change. Change. And more change; one big giant change made up of a multitude of little changes” – yep, that would about sum it up.

Let’s face it.  Regardless of how the world came into being (and I am not going to start that discussion here) one thing has been constant – CHANGE.  It is never ending – it is what life and growth are – change.  Yet most of us fight it, ignore it, try to stop it… unless of course we are the instigators because then obviously it’s a great idea right?

I used to have a poster in my office that read

The only thing permanent is change.

It’s true.  So it’s about time we finally get used to that little fact.  That doesn’t mean we always have to like it, we don’t always have to support it.  We can affect change.  It’s time we stop using excuses, regardless of what they are.  It’s time we start allowing change to do it’s thing – to embrace it and to work with it.  Change can be very scary, full of upheaval and uncertainty.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Truth:  Change happens no matter what and it can be challenging.

Dare:  Use peace, dialogue and education to manage change and with patience you might just begin to embrace it.  

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©Rise Like Air/J. Fries 2013