A couple of days ago, I did something I’ve done maybe 100 times now. I spoke at another school to another group of students, and it was just as fulfilling and exciting as my very first time.
About 500 students, all girls, filled the auditorium and, for the most part, listened to everything I said. There were short girls and tall girls. Small girls and big girls. Prissy girls and tomboyish girls. Friendly faces and mean mugs. I shared my life with them and left them with some important lessons.
They all got quiet and even looked around at each other when I made the statement, “But you all look like me.”
They were all young women. They were all black.
And like me, they all had issues. Things they were dealing with. Things that were holding them back. And hopefully, my S.O. What! message will help them overcome those things.
When I speak, I’m not always sure that I’m fully connecting with the audience- especially children. But, it never fails, after every speaking engagement, a line forms to talk to me. That’s when I know I connected.
I love when students thank me for sharing my story and tell me that they enjoyed my presentation. And it’s even better when they feel compelled to share theirs with me.
This high school visit was very much like the many others I’ve done and enjoyed, but two of the students who came to talk to me at the end shared new stories with me. I wasn’t shocked by their stories by any means because I’ve probably heard it all, but I was happy they wanted to share with me.
The first approached me and told me that she had made her mother a grandmother at the age of 29. I knew of a 30 year old grandmother, but 29 was the youngest for me so far. I hugged her and told her that now she just need to make her mother proud of many more accomplishments. She smiled, thanked me and said that’s exactly what she was going to do. I later picked this sweet girl up walking home when I left the school.
The other young lady who approached me was just as sweet. She said, “I’m a teen mother, but kids make fun of me because I’m a stud.” I hugged her too. She explained her story to me, and I just listened. She told me she was doing well in school, taking care of her child, and working two jobs. I applauded her and told her to keep doing everything she could to be the best woman and mother she could be.
Both of these girls were hurting and felt judged by their peers. And judged by many others. I remember and still feel the judgment in my own life and won’t impose that judgment on them. My job is to encourage them and show them how to overcome obstacles – hurt, pain, and all judgment. And love them. I SO love all of these kids.