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When I woke up my social media this morning a wonderfully powerful very short video titled “4 year old has a perfect response to a boy in her class” was in my feed from HuffPost.   The little adorable face staring back at me with that wide smile guaranteed I was going to click play.

In case you don’t have Facebook, I’ll include the transcription from The Huffington Post article.

“What happened in school today?” her mom, Sonya, asks in the video. “A little boy said I looked … ugly,” Cici responded.

“And what did you say?” Cici’s mom asked.

“I said, ‘I didn’t come here to make a fashion statement. I came here to learn — not look pretty,'” Cici replied, adding, “The little boy said I looked ‘bad,’ and I said, ‘Did you look in a mirror lately? Bye bye, see you later, you’re making me mad.'”

All Right! This girl has attitude. She has confidence. She is beautiful inside and out. She is my Shero!  We can all learn something from this 4 year old.  It’s a lesson in standing up for ourselves.  It’s about learning how to treat people.  And how not to treat people.  It’s about being empowered.  It’s about fairness, kindness, growing up and parenting. She has just the right amount of sass.

But.  In the middle of all that. And in the middle of the smiles and giggles, did you notice what happened to that smiling little girl when her mother asked that one simple question?  “What happened at school today?”   She got a little more serious as she answered, “A little boy said I looked …” and then it happened, the awkward pause, the fading smile, the dimming eyes, and then that word…  “…ugly”.  As she remembered it, then said it, it was like “it” was happening all over again.  The power, the life, was being sucked away.

And then, as her mother asked her what happened next, she embraced her power and her smile returned as she recounted her response to the little boy.

That word, that one hurtful word in a hurtful sentence.  You can hear the impact, feel it and see it like a fist to the stomach.  How much power it wielded, but like a true mighty girl, a real life super hero, Cici got right back up and won the round with oh so much class.

The empowering poem “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou came to mind.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

(excerpt from “Still I Rise”)

That word may have cut, it may have stung but Cici had nothing to apologize for, nothing to feel bad about and she let him know where she stood on the subject in no uncertain terms.

Her spirit and fire again brought to mind Maya Angelou’s strength and power that are so evident in another of her famous poems.  Gavin Aung Than, founder of Zen Pencils captured her essence beautifully in his adaptation of “Phenomenal Woman” in June 2014.

image from Zen Pencil's  #153 Maya Angelou Phenomenal Woman

image from Zen Pencil’s #153 Maya Angelou Phenomenal Woman

While Cici may not be a woman yet, she certainly is a phenomenal girl on her way to being a phenomenal woman.

I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

(excerpt from “Phenomenal Woman”)

In closing I want to reiterate that the impact of that one word can’t be denied.  How easy it is to hurt, to scar, in one moment of anger, of hurting, or of simply not thinking, the damage that can be wrought.  Never doubt the power of your words, or how long the effect can be felt. Language is gift that should always be used with care and wisdom.  For as easy as it is to cause hurt and to leave scars, it is really just as simple to encourage, empower, embolden and inspire.  The next time you put a string of words together, think about what they might do to the person hearing them. What choice are you going to make?

© 2015 JFries / Rise Like Air

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