Friday, May 28, 2010

Without Words: You Will Be Too

“The most common way people give up their Power, is by thinking they don’t have any.” -Alyce Walker

The Road can make a body weary. I’ve been traveling…a lot. The joy, the smiles, the happiness, the depth of what we are doing has a way of working their way deeply into my cells…particularly when the body IS weary. The physical-ness of me becomes less of a barrier and I feel more transparent. I become more emotional.
I am in Kalamazoo as I write to you. I drove in from Ann Arbor yesterday, after an incredibly moving event with Danielle Plunkett-Johnson and her team. Follow that with Sandy Barry-Loken and her amazing team holding their annual volunteer recognition event last night here in Kalamazoo.

I spent over an hour yesterday preparing my speech. I don’t often require much prep time, but yesterday I pulled together some new “material” to share with our Kalamazoo “family”.

I never got around to sharing it.

I didn’t need to. Anna (on the right in photo above) and Jessie(on the left) said it all.

Jessie is a fourteen year old graduate of the program. Her mom was a faithful coach for six years…and Jessie was on her mom’s GOTR teams over each of those six years. She is now in 9th grade.

Jessie confidently walked to the stage, took to the podium and proceeded to read, with passion like none other, a poem she had written that won a literary award here in Kalamazoo.

Before you read it…seriously…I want you to settle in. Take a few deep breaths, because you will be left breathless when you are through:

By Jessie Fales, Kalamazoo, MI

Judge a girl by the mounds on her chest,
by the curve of her spine,
by the silk of her skin,
by her hair’s shine.
Stare at her hips,
gawk at her thighs,
act as though she’s only a feast for your eyes.
Let your gaze travel over every inch of her body,
and then, when you finally like what you see,
call her beautiful.
And if this is how you determine beauty, then you are a fool.
Because beauty is not found in the vessel,
but it is found in what that vessel contains.
The most beautiful shell in the world could break,
and then you would have nothing.
But if you would look at an ordinary oyster,
you would find in her the most beautiful pearl,
a treasure that you’ve always ignored.
Beauty can be found everywhere, if only you take the time to look.
It is in she who finds a reason to laugh, when life gives her a thousand reasons to cry.
It is in the girl who can rise from the depths of despair.
It is in she who dances in the rain.
It is in the girl who speaks her mind.
It is in she who goes against the grain.
It is everywhere.
And if you choose to ignore all of this beauty,
and focus on that which only meets your eyes,
then you are a fool.
A fool who will never know what beauty truly is.

I was a goner at the word gawk in line six. The words of this powerful woman-girl hit me deeply in my solar plexus. I found myself nearly thrown to my knees with their impact. THIS is where it starts. THIS is the Girl Box…gone, obliterated, eliminated, SHATTERED!

Anna is next. She walks to the stage after a heartfelt series of words from her mancoach, Paul. (Yes…I said MANcoach!)

She reads her words, bravely to 200 plus women and here they are:
When I started GOTR, I felt like the bi-polar girl who was chubby, hideous, unwanted. I’d walk in school with my head down, belly sticking out, eyes clenched shut, lips tight… so scared and felt so hated I didn’t know what to do. I felt the world was after me and wanted to klomple me, smack me down because I was so hideous.

Everybody starts out scared. I thought I could never run. My heart ached but my team cheered me on. I learned that your team was there for you. And I was able to finish the 5K. I said “me, I thought I could never do that”

Second year, who knew… new school, coaches, team. The kids were nice to me. What a relief. Coaches Paul and Steph and assistant Jen rocked! They gave me the nick name, Anna the Brave, for being able to run and everything.
The last year I was more fearless. I could go into school with my head up, smiling, waving to my buddies.

Then I became assistant coach to Paul. I got depressed, but GOTR kept me brave… kept me going. When I was coaching, I was running and cheering girls like older kids were for me. I wanted to be that kid. I wanted to help them feel that somebody may like you just because you’re you. I wanted those girls to turn brave, fearless.

If I didn’t do GOTR, I couldn’t have faced some scary treatment for bi-polar and depression. I learned how to boost my self esteem and like who I am; and I did the 5K 4 times… Oh Yeah! I also learned how to face bullies (it’s like getting IVs… and I get a lot of these).

Seriously, I don’t know how to explain it.

And then she was done.

Now it’s my turn. I slowly walked to the stage. And was, for the first time in what has become a career that involves public speaking, literally left without words. They had already been said. They had already been shared. They had already been…I just stood there and cried, like a baby…completely moved by the bravery, the real-ness, the POWER each of these girls had claimed as their own and then had the courage to share with me, us, the world.

As I write to you this morning, I recognize, that with each passing year, I am more able to see with eyes wide open, the impact our efforts are having in the world. Fourteen years we’ve been at this and YES! The Girl Box, the imaginary space we, as adults might have bought into, believed and felt confined by, no longer exists for Jessie and Anna and the thousands and thousands of girls our program reaches. The cultural, systemic and individual change I dreamed of back in my early 30’s is truly occurring and Girls on the Run is playing a significant role in that change.

So there you have it. I’m done. The words have all been said. Now I just want to feel, embrace and be content with the silence, the wonder, the awesome Power within and that which we have come to know as Girls on the Run. When have you been left "without words." Tell me about it at


  1. It is simply amazing! I am so fortunate and happy to belong to this amazing program. I too, wish this had been around when I was in my teens.

    I had a chance to bring my two daughters to our race in VB this past weekend. I think they were very happy to see their mom not only finish the race but also to see the wonderful girls that I have had the chance to coach and the respect they have for me. I have 2 wonderful girls that have grown up to appreciate who they are and what they stand for. I think maybe next year they may be running with their mom or volunteering for this great program. Keep up the good work everyone.

  2. Oh, how beautiful, Molly. These young women, beautiful. What Girls on the Run has done, beuatiful. And the brave way you feel through everything, the brave way you show your feelings, beautiful. Bravo!

  3. Thanks for sharing Molly. This was amazing and awe-inspiring.

  4. Thank you for sharing this story! I have a new appreciation for GOTR because of your story! I know Jessie and she is an amazing young woman in so many ways.