Friday, November 8, 2013

Ever Wonder What Retired Women In Small Sleepy Towns Do All Day?

Act #312:  Listen to you foremothers.

I frequently get asked to speak to civic organizations about the rape crisis center.  So when my own small town women's club asked me to fill a monthly speaker's spot over a salad buffet lunch at the local steakhouse, I of course obliged.  A few months prior, I had just spoken with a mostly male civic organization at the same exact steakhouse and it went just fine, but a bit uneventful.  There wasn't a lot of interaction or follow-up, but my hosts were most gracious.  So I figured this women's club luncheon, that consisted mostly of retired women over the age of 70 would be a polite, regularly scheduled program of me talking about a local non-profit, and then we'd go our separate ways. 

But that was not the case. 

After I finished my salad, I got up in front of the group of about 20 or so women, and despite the fact that I was a good 20-30 years younger than most, that I was the only brown woman in the room, I can't explain it - but I suddenly felt completely and utterly embraced by them.  Like they were my sisters, my mothers, that we somehow shared a journey, a story, a history.  And so I asked them to close their eyes with me and imagine who they were when they were 15.  Were they hopeful about the world ahead of them?  Were they taught to protect themselves against violence?  Unfortunately, with 44% of all rape victims being under the age of 18, at that point they had probably even seen or experienced violence themselves.    But did they feel powerful or powerless?  And then I told them about a 15 year-old survivor that I met at our very own local hospital on Valentine's Day of this year. And I asked them to join me in creating a world where all 15 year old girls could grow up feeling hopeful and powerful. 

And they not only obliged, but all those collective years of wisdom, knowledge, experience, feminism came pouring out of the form of questions, disbelief, interest in volunteering, survivor stories of resilience, commitment to advocate for others, commitment to speak up and speak out against violence.  And as I left, I carried away with me a $500 donation check tucked neatly in my folder......and a legacy of activism and inspiration tucked deeply in my soul.

Never again will I underestimate the power of women who are already far along on their journeys - for truly, they are the ones who have the power to guide us on ours.

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