One book on my Christmas list this year was I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban. I just got around to reading it, and I was floored and awed by the beautiful writing, the clarity of Malala’s voice, and the strength of her character.
I just recently found out I was pregnant, and thinking of a little tiny life growing inside me, I’m also thinking about how to raise a kind, strong, caring human. I kept thinking how wonderful Malala’s parents are to have raised such an exemplary human being. I am half a world away from Pakistan, and I know little about the Muslim faith. I was raised in the Bible belt, in Nashville, Tennessee, and I don’t align myself with any specific religion except kindness. One picture in the middle of Malala’s book showed a painting she crafted showing the dream of interfaith peace. It was particularly touching to me, because there is a lot of ignorance and hate surrounding varied religions.
The other day, I was driving from my house to Goodwill to look for some large bowls. My mind was on a baby inside me, the chapter I had just finished of Malala’s book, the size and shape of bowls I was looking for, and I pulled out a little too far before turning left onto a street. A woman in a large SUV flew up the hill, trying to turn left on the street I was coming from. I waved my hand (in Nashville that means “sorry!”), and she yelled from her partially rolled down window. I was shocked at her hatred for something so small as barely being in her way. I waved again, made a peace sign and then put my hands together as a prayer. (In my yoga classes I love the prayer mudra, bringing the hands together at heart center or at my third eye.) This gesture really fired the woman up. She continued to yell and curse at me, showing me her middle finger topped with a long nail, complete with blue nail polish and a few gems glinting in the sun. There was hate in her eyes shining out at me. If we weren’t in cars, I was sure she would have hit me. I laughed, because what else could I do?
As she drove away I took deep breaths, and then I continued on my way. Then I got emotional. I thought about the hate in the world, the people who so easily yell and go on the defensive, the people who attack. Surely something else happened in this woman’s day to react this way, not just the small act of being slowed down while turning left. Surely this had nothing to do with me. As I’ve been seeing lately: “Hurt people hurt people.” This woman had been hurt by someone else, and she paid the hurt forward to me.
Such a small thing, road rage.
Today I finished Malala’s book. She said several times that she only wished she could have spoken to the man with the gun before he shot her. She only wanted to explain herself and her cause. Malala never wished revenge upon this man. She is a true example of peace. Reacting with love instead of fear and hate is the only way we’ll know peace.
I was scared then, thinking that at some point this child inside me would experience misplaced hatefulness. I hope that I will be a good enough parent to teach my child peace, patience, love, and kindness, even in the face of hate. I hope to teach them that sometimes it is much harder to choose love over fear, but it is always the right choice.
Thank you, Malala, thank you. For your bravery and love. Thank you, Malala’s mother and father, for your integrity. We need more souls like you.