I began reading a picture is worth… this week and my heart broke as I read the first personal essay written by a young woman named Aayilah. a picture is worth… is a book composed of a collection of personal essays written by US high school students; it is designed to be an education curriculum component along with photos, blogs and audio segments.
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The story told by Aayilah of her life broke my heart and repaired it, all within one chapter. The goal of a picture is worth… is to inspire learning in young people by encouraging them to share their stories, as well as to develop new ways of educating and connecting students.
Aayilah is a 15-year-old student who came to the US from Trinidad and Tobago to live with her mother and pursue her education. She begins her essay by explaining that her life in Trinidad and Tobago living with her dad was difficult. Her stepmom beat her, and she often slept on the hard, cold floor rather than the bed because her family was so large that her siblings took over her bed at night. More troubles began when Aaliyah contacted her mom to live with her in the United States and then moved in with her.
The troubles she writes about in her essay include fighting with and screaming at her mom. When Aayilah wanted to return to living with her dad, as she missed her family in Trinidad and Tobago, her mom didn’t allow it. That was one reason for arguing, as was her mom finding out about Aayilah’s Facebook page. The online page was the youngster’s way to correspond with men so that she could post photos of herself and read comments from people about her appearances.
That last point made me very sad as I think of Aayilah wanting to be called pretty and special and reaching out in any way possible to get that, even corresponding with strangers on Facebook. I thought about her mother likely not knowing how to show her daughter how much she loves her, and perhaps even struggling with guilt over the divorce from Aaliyah’s father. I also thought of the courage Aayilah has to write her personal story at such a young age in order to help other students learn about the difficulties of living in the US. Her heart is struggling, but she is doing right on many levels.
At the end of the chapter, the young woman writes that she plans to become a nurse in the army when she gets older. My spirit lifted when I read that, and I hope she gets the quality education she deserves. I hope that if she one day has a daughter that she will remember this essay she wrote while in high school. I hope she will treat her own girl with respect and show love in ways that she feels she hasn’t gotten from her mother.
The resilience of youth is strong and there is such potential for the next generation, isn’t there? I hope that young women like Aayilah will grow into confident, independent women who actively contribute their unique gifts to society. I hope this young lady knows she is so special that I wrote an entire post about her here and that her words made me both cry and smile as I read them.
Has the story of a woman ever broken your heart?
©2014 Christy Birmingham