The other weekend I went to visit friends living in the countryside outside of Stockholm. They had a neighbors teenage daughter over (guessing she is 15-16 something), she took their dog for a walk and played with the newborn baby when she got back. At the table when we had dessert and coffee, something came up in conversation, how this young woman had been beaten up by a girl gang a short while ago. It was shocking to hear as a total stranger and I thought I saw some embarrassment or awkwardness in her face when it suddenly was the topic. She said with a smile that her mother had probably made it sound a lot worse when she told my friends. It was all a bit unclear what had really happened and how she was affected. I felt my heart contract when the words fell away and we continued talking about something else. I turned to her and asked “Whatever happened, how are you?” She looked at me with her big bright eyes and said “I’m okay. Thank you for asking” followed by a gentle, shy smile.
Before leaving, when doing our bye byes, she asked me if she could give me a hug. And I am crying writing this because when I held her in my arms and received her tight loving embrace I felt the fierce lion in me wanting to protect her forever. I felt her vulnerable, open heart. Her innocence.
I sometimes get overwhelmed hearing about the heavy challenges our youth are facing today and wonder what I can do. And I realized then, it’s very simple. It’s about seeing and feeling them. To check in, offer a hand. To be present and visible. To make sure they know that there are adults that care. To be the big sister maybe they never had.