Day 84: Finding my way by the footsteps of others…

“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”

Muhammad Ali

 

 

I have spent a long couple of days and shed a few hundred tears as I listened to my Dad’s tapes. Yes, the Kleenex box has been my close friend and Jet, my faithful dog, is exhausted trying to figure out why it is that I have been so emotional.

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I have come to the realization that before I share my Dad’s story with the world, I need to do some in-depth research to try to fill in some holes that help bridge his story better.  And yet, when I think about the totality of all that will be shared, I come to the conclusion that his story deserves more than a blog mention.  No, his courageous life as a child soldier fighting against pure evil demands the respect of more than just a couple of days of this shy and sheltered girl’s attention.  The tapes alone have stories that made my heart sink and my great respect and admiration soar.  I can’t believe he kept these secrets to himself for his entire adult life.  So until I can do proper justice to my father’s incredible story, I want to share someone else’s story of courage and strength.

Similar to my Dad, Malala is just a child, wanting a simple life filled with joy and possibilities.  And then one day….

 

 

When I was younger, my father was adamant that his children, especially his girls, get the best education possible.  He insisted that we work tirelessly on writing, reading, and doing math…even during summer breaks…  I wondered so often what drove my Dad’s determination, bordering on obsession, for having his girls working so hard… Today, I understand why.

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There are evil people who do not believe that girls have the right to be the best they can be. There is true evil in this world, disguised and shrouded in a self-made theory that one sex is dominant over the other.  This limited thinking is ignorance that imprisons so many unfortunate children in this world.  Make no mistake; this short-sightedness is not bound to just one country or one culture.  There are many cultures that view women as second class citizens, who have limited rights, if any.

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I sat in my chair for just a moment and tried to place myself in a position in one such culture. Where freedom does not exist, opportunity for women is not spoken of, and the value of individual thought could never be contributed to family or society.  I gasped at the thought of being subjugated to such a life.  I would rather die than be imprisoned in such a way!  Yet, I am fortunate… I am lucky…. I am free!  I have free access to education, to speak my mind, to read whatever I choose, to wear whatever I want, to feel pleasure without criticism, to be who I want to be!

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Malala is on a mission to share with the world how invaluable education is, but more importantly that equality is what allows all of us to succeed. The blending of ideas can improve life around the world and increase respect so that we can have the experiences that we were meant to have.  Life is about living… it is about enjoying every opportunity that is presented… it is about reaching to be the best, to do the most, to contribute, to help others, to care for others… to be brave and say what needs to be said, and do what needs to be done, without fear of losing one’s own life for the sake of honesty and the hope for improvement.

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Yes, there are times when discretion is the better part of valor, but when facing evil, only the truth will set you free!!!  Malala rightfully received the Nobel Peace Prize several weeks ago for having the strength, perseverance and bravery to face evil and say what needed to be said.  Human life is no less valuable whatever the sex, religion, race, culture or other defining factor happens to be.  We ALL deserve the right to a basic education, to live freely and be the best people we can be!  We have the right to question what we think is not right.  Engaging in discussion helps us grow in our thoughts and tolerance of the differing views we all hold.  Our perspective is acquired through our life experiences.  We value things differently according to the challenges that we face.  We have a responsibility to the generations that follow to leave a map of the trails that have been blazed and the battles that have been fought.  My father, and Malala, remind us that there is a price for liberty.  It is through bravery and courage that we remember the value of freedom… of opportunity… of our rights…

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My Dad was just a child when he met evil face-to-face. He was given a choice to flee or fight.  Malala is just a child who was given the choice to take a stand or submit to evil.  All she knew was that every human being regardless of gender deserves the right to an education so that they can have the opportunity to be successful.  Two children, generations apart, courage ingrained in their DNA, repressed by evil, but surviving by speaking the truth and standing up to oppression.

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If Malala had not survived, her efforts to change the world would have ceased and evil would have won.  The U.N. has declared  November 10th as “Malala Day”, a day reserved to spread awareness of girls rights to education.  Speak loudly, with your words on social media and other avenues.  We, in the U.S., have the right to say to other nations that each human must be treated equally.  Yet, it took a child being shot in the head for that message to resonate.  No, the inequality may not affect our lives directly, but this same branch of evil is part of the root system of hate that took our servicemen in the U.S.S. Cole bombing, Somalia, and the very sad days of 9/11, to mention just a few.  The group has morphed but the evil and intent to terrorize, harm and kill, still remains.  Free people have a right and responsibility to proclaim that freedom and liberty should be for everyone, in every country, culture and home across this great planet.

I will continue with my personal Quest because I need to grow and learn from others, I need to be stronger, braver and use my voice for a purpose much greater than myself.  What I continue to learn on this quest, I feel an obligation to share with others.  The lessons so far have been eye-opening… there are days when I can’t remember the person I use to be… And yet, every day I wake up with a sense of euphoria and wonder where the road will take me.

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Today, I was faced with a fork in the road. I could take the easy route and summarize my Dad’s amazing struggle and bravery in just a couple of posts… or take my time and pay him the tribute he very much deserves, not knowing how long that road might be or where it will take me.  So, I will continue my year-long Quest for courage and simultaneously work on composing the words that tell of the footsteps my Dad left behind.  I plan to present that composition at the end of my Quest to all those interested and curious about what real courage looks like.

With a great sense of gratitude for Malala and her difficult but highly regarded mission in life, having faced a fork in the road and choosing the more difficult route in an effort to say what needs to be said, feeling more focused than before and always appreciating the freedom to simply write, the freedom of which so many have given their lives for me to be able to do…. Wondering with great excitement what tomorrow will bring…

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