This question, posed by an insightful 11-year-old girl, left me speechless.
I was honored to be a part of a week-long camp for young girls focused on empowerment. Its authors and leaders developed an innovative curriculum focused on finding their strength while building character and self-confidence. Vitally important skills for young girls growing up in our world today.
My session on Social Justice came on the last day and highlighted our responsibility to improving the lives of those around us. It featured well-known and little-known heroes in history like Anne Frank, who suffered unthinkable discrimination, oppression and death, but never lost her belief that people are good at heart.
They learned about poverty and how Mother Teresa left everything behind to help those who had nothing. We celebrated Alexandra Scott, who at eight years old, raised over $120 million to find a cure for the cancer that ultimately stole her future. We talked about a victim of trafficking who shares her horrifying story to save young girls from the same fate and J.K. Rowling, who claimed to be the biggest failure she knew, while writing the beloved adventures of Harry Potter.
They spent time learning more about each other and celebrated the ways that they were helping others. Simple things, like smiling at the new girl and inviting her to lunch or helping a friend with homework. They shared times they were brave, when their feelings were hurt and times when they helped another person. They were vulnerable, insightful and brave.
As I looked at these bright, young faces, I was inspired.
That may be why the last question from a quiet girl, sitting in the back, took me by surprise. “How many people do you think you inspire in a year.” This is not a question that we often ask ourselves, but perhaps we should.
While the number is irrelevant (and difficult to calculate), it is an important reminder that each and every day we affect the people around us. At the end of the session I challenged them to go out and “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” They reminded me I am part of that challenge as well.
In honor of National Mentoring Month, we celebrate the incredible heroes who invest time and energy pouring into the lives of others. You are the master gardeners, planting the seeds of possibility and hope in our communities and inspiring us all.