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I am so grateful that Malala is recovering, and that her small voice grows louder.

living in gratitude©

living in gratitude©

I am grateful that this girl, this very brave girl, is unafraid.

Who dares face nameless, would-be assassins?  Who dares use a soft voice to tell the world that her mission is too great to be stopped by hate?

Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistan teen now so famous that her first name has instant recognition, world-wide.

“I raise up my voice – not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard,” the 16-year-old told the United Nations.

Are we listening?

It’s easy to applaud Malala’s courage, after she survived a murder attempt by alleged Taliban killers — men who opened fire on girls riding to school in an unmarked van. She was only 15 then.

For me, it was easy to weep when Malala spoke before the U.N. Assembly — all those world leaders — because her words were so plaintive.

“I dont want revenge on the Taliban, I want education for sons and daughters of the Taliban,” she said.

Malala is that most rare person who offers us a message of forgiveness and peace.  I am grateful for her example.  I’m grateful that her parents, who braved everything to send their girl to school, have not talked about revenge against the men who shot their daughter in the head.

No, the best retribution was Malala’s recovery.

She agreed to be photographed from her hospital bed, reassuring children all over the world that they too, can survive darkness.

Her parents agreed to international interviews, despite the risks, because they, too, are unafraid.

Malala’s recovery has been remarkable because her spirit is so strong.  She sets an example of selflessness for all girls — for all of us — and reminds us that it is good to stand up for what is right, no matter the consequences.

We met many little girls and their teachers in Pakistan and Afghanistan who risked their lives to go to school.  We met them in underground schools, with dirt floors and sheets for walls; we met them in rundown buildings with no water, few books, and shared pencils.

They were not afraid.  These pre-teens worked all day sewing tiny stitches to make carpets, so that they would be allowed to study in late afternoon, and do homework at night.

We gathered a carload of books and paper and pens from international journalists in Afghanistan, and delivered them to an orphanage, dismissing the warning that our hard-found supplies would likely be confiscated and sold on the black market.  It was a very small gesture.

I am grateful for Malala’s grand gesture.

“I am here to speak up for the right of education of every child,” she told the U.N.  Her parents were in the audience.  So was her little brother.

My heart aches for them.  My heart aches for every child who cannot go to school, whether they’re threatened by criminals or by poverty or by indifference.

I am grateful for Malala Yousafzai, who has blogged since 2009 about children’s rights to be educated.  We weren’t listening then.

Are we truly listening now?

Avaaz is an international group of activists who campaign for the rights of the voiceless. I am grateful for their work, on a tiny budget, and am especially grateful for their global reach.

They’ve begun a petition to the U.N., urging its members to keep their promise to put every child in school by 2015.

The cynic in me says the U.N. declaration is a noble, empty gesture.

My inner optimist says it’s only empty if we, the grown-ups, don’t add our voices to that of small, brave Malala.

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