Empowerment, Day 1

So I finally got to meet 24 fantastic and brave girls yesterday. Two wonderful instructors and myself gathered inside Holzinger Lodge in Winona to start investigating how we might navigate becoming the strong and powerful women we want to be. Many of them were there under duress. What self- respecting 13, 14, or 15 year old is going to willingly go talk about empowerment? The comments we received from parents and guardians went something like this:

"Good luck!" said with eyes toward heaven.

"She did NOT want to come."

"She can be evil. I wish you the best!"

"Don't believe a word she says."

If we could have measured insecurity by the mile, we could have taken a trip around the world. Twice.

Yet here is the thing. Some of the girls looked just fine. There were a few smiles, some willing participants, and surprised admissions of  "That was fun!"

I have read my own girl's journal. In fact she and I have a mother/daughter journal and what we exchange at times terrifies me. I simply cannot equate what I SEE and experience with her to the words on the page. So I kept thinking of this yesterday when I felt a few girls loosening up, when a tentative smile broke out into laughter. "Oh brave and tender heart. You are doing it despite your fears."

And to me, this is what the camp is all about. Embracing the fact that we are all so terrified on the inside no matter how we might appear on the outside. My girl can look as cool as a cucumber as she takes the stage to dance or act or sing or she can serenely hold her own little space next to a friend yet be quivering inside when it is her to turn to share her feelings.

I get a little frustrated when we use the term "at risk" to label kids. By right of being human, we are all AT RISK. No one escapes the fact that living is beautiful and difficult and the best we can do is help and hold each other as we navigate our individual rocky terrains. I get that many kids come from places that do not set them up for success, but none of this should minimize each individual's personal experience.

Even if the camp goes down in flames today (please, no!)  it will still be a gift to me and all those present. Showing up despite our fears made it so.


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