Wednesday, July 1, 2015

“What Am I Doing to Make Malala Proud?”

The title of this post is the question my teenage daughter, Julianna, asked herself the spring before her senior year in high school. Her answer was to pay her way on a mission trip with a group of our church’s adults to teach English to Panamanian children. I think Malala would have been pleased!

When I first heard my daughter’s question, I thought of the WWJD? (What Would Jesus Do?) bracelets that were a fad with teens here in the states for a while. That fad is long gone; those teens have grown up. Ironically, my Christian daughter seems to have found a meaningful role-model in a Pakistani, Muslim girl near her own age. I hope Malala survives the continued threats to her life and lives a long life inspiring my daughter and others.

Malala Yousafzai, advocate for the education of Muslim girls, victim of an assassination attempt, and the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner is only a few months younger than my daughter. When the already famous and outspoken 16-year-old Malala was called out and shot on her school bus by the Taliban in Pakistan, she became more famous. Julianna began to read articles about Malala’s advocacy, recovery, and amazing courage to continue speaking publicly for the rights of all girls to be educated. Like Malala, Julianna has a passion for education. She plans to be a teacher and has a heart for urban children. She was quick to read I am Malala, Yousafzai’s best-selling memoir, and we all enjoyed seeing Malala tease John Stewart on The Daily Show. I highly recommend the feature length film about her, He Named Me Malala.   

Above I’ve offered photos of 3 picture books about Malala Yousafzai. You’ll have no problem finding these and other picture books at your local library or on-line. Video content is easily found too. It’s important for young children and teens to have heroes, especially if the heroes are near their age. Your message can be that being a child/teen doesn’t give you an excuse for not doing justice or working for peace. Everyone can do something now.

There are other, less decorated and lesser-known teens and tweens in our world making it more just and loving. A little internet searching and some creativity on your part might lead to some very meaningful programming for the young people in your faith family. Be sure to identify the traits that your children can emulate from the heroes you offer. Point out when their passions are grounded in their faith. 

Your children are going to have heroes. When the substance of their fandom can be about more than beauty, sports, or entertainment, then our world has better opportunities for God's desires. I believe Malala would be very proud of such changes.