three tells and what you can do

[this is my contribution to the Girl Effect Blogging Campaign]

“…A very cool little girl just sold me some peanuts.  Her name is Kassamanding Sanyang…”

tell one:

i was in banjul, the gambia, at a tiny restaurant on the side of the road.  i’ll never forget that young girl, Kassamanding Sanyang, yet i don’t know what happened to her after i left west africa.

sadly, breakfast at that little restaurant was a mistake – i was seriously sick after eating there.  so i spent the rest of the day in bed, listening to the sounds of a new place, and of course, i wanted to capture these details so i could reflect on them later, back in the states.

while in bed, i wrote a lot in my notebook – a knock-knock-knock on the door interrupted me.  i wasn’t feeling up to interaction, but the knocks kept coming, so finally i had to answer the door.

the man motioned with his hand, as though he were writing something and then pointed to my pen – in fact, he wanted my pen and paper.  i had plenty of paper, but only ONE pen – i didn’t understand at the time that he didn’t have either.

i still remember how mortified i was at the thought of not having a pen to write down my words and thoughts and impressions.

it doesn’t seem to most of us that writing things down is a luxury.

but let’s imagine this:  i sneak into your world and take every single writing utensil you have in your possession – i take your pencils, pens, markers, crayons, chalk, phone, keyboards, laptop… and i take all your writing surface options away too, the paper, your index cards, post-its, notebooks, chalkboards, computer and phone screens, all of it – then i leave you there full of thoughts and with no way to write ANY of them down.

and yes, when i took your phone and laptop, i made you twitterless, facebookless, no emails, no texts, no words to be written by you at all.

would you be out in the backyard with a stick scraping at the dirt, trying to etch your thoughts and words into the soil?

when you grab a pen or pencil to write something down, do you think about how lucky you are to have the luxury of holding onto your thoughts, making them concrete by writing them down, knowing how to write, spell and how to read?

we don’t just have the luxury of writing our important thoughts down, we also have the luxury of writing trivialities down – details about your cat’s activities can be broadcast to the world in the twitterfeed, yet 600 million adolescent girls live in poverty and have no voice, their words and wishes unheard, their ideas drowned out by the remoteness of their villages, by cultures which undervalue their contributions and potential, by the stubborn, erroneous belief that a girl doesn’t deserve an education, that investing in girls is not as important as investing in boys.

tell two:

one of my most vivid recollections of west africa was seeing a man napping in a wheelbarrow on the side of the road.

i mentioned the man in the wheelbarrow to a man in the airport (the same i guy i write about here) and when i told him about the man asleep in the wheelbarrow, he told me about his experience out near Timbuktu.

he said that none of the men worked.  they sat around all day talking and smoking.

he said the women did ALL the workALL the work! the women collected firewood, carried firewood, collected and carried all the water, cleaned the living spaces, grew and harvested vegetables, made the food, took care of the children, cleaned the clothes, made the clothes, went to the market, created businesses, etc. – the women did all the work.

i did not understand then what i understand now – we who have pens and pencils and paper, we who have safe roads to drive upon, we who have schools and learning centers for toddlers, we who have clean water pouring from our faucets at the flick of a wrist, we who have shoes for our feet, plumbing for our waste, healthcare beyond a sea of pills in a sun-drenched open air market separated only by color and a best guess as to what they are, we who have civil laws to protect us, we who live SO LARGE – we have so much that we can’t even wrap our heads around the gifts we take for granted.

if you have plenty, please right now take a moment to understand the plight of a girl who has no such luxuries, who may be married off to become a mother before puberty even whispers her name, whose only wish is to learn to read and write, to become knowledgeable about the world she’s been born into, whose brilliance and gifts need an education to flourish.

tell three:

i just went to the girl effect web site and set up a monthly donation so i can change the world – please join me by clicking the link below and reach out to the girls of the world who don’t even know to dream of the luxuries you don’t even notice you have

it’s easy and fast and simple and you have SO MUCH.

i invite – implore! – you to add your gift so we can lift girls up out of poverty because she in turn will help her whole community thrive, and a vast and important domino effect will be set in motion – by the girl effect.

if you need more facts to convince you, please visit this amazing site to learn more:

if you have not yet seen this video, please watch:

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Tara Sophia Mohr November 19, 2010 at 4:22 pm

Julie –
Thank you so much for jumping in and participating in the campaign, and sharing these stories. I was particularly struck by your exploration of what it means to simply have a pen – and the great privilege of being able to capture our thoughts.
Please spread the word today and encourage others to write posts themselves!
Hugs to you,

julie November 19, 2010 at 5:00 pm

tara ~
i want to thank YOU – your blogging campaign is what got my attention and inspired me to write about this. so thank you for your awesome idea. i’m so impressed with the girl effect and i can think of no better way to enact change across the globe than investing in girls worldwide.
i have loved reading all the different posts by brilliant women around cybertown and i will encourage others to give and write and do whatever they can to help us bring positive change to these beautiful girls who just want a chance to thrive.
thank you so much!
~ julie

Julie Jordan Scott November 20, 2010 at 5:22 pm

I loved reading your stories – and oh, the words >>> it doesn’t seem to most of us that writing things down is a luxury.<<< as a writer, the picture you wrote here hit me right in the gut.

I am so grateful you wrote your story here, shared so vividly and with so much passion. THANK YOU!

julie November 23, 2010 at 5:37 pm

hi julie ~
thanks so much for your comment. i really appreciate hearing from you! i’m so grateful to learn that what i wrote touched you. that’s what makes sharing stories so important – as we share our experiences we share the meaning we find as we move along the path.

thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and for taking the time to learn about my story.
~ julie

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