Take-a-stand Pearls

Malala Yousafzai is a queen without pearls on her neck. She does not represent any monarchy or have any subjects; instead, she has the entire planet’s girl population as her subject. She did not inherit her position but is a stick-your-neck-out person. Malala is like a queen chess piece. Her influence spans far corners of the global chessboard, as she is capable of moving on the diagonal.     

Malala suffered a bullet to her head when she was 15 years old and on a bus riding to school. Her injuries were extensive, including the lacerating of facial nerves, shattering of her eardrum, and breaking her jaw joints. Physicians in London inserted a titanium plate where a skull bone had existed. Initially Malala could not speak, but she could write. She wrote the word, “mirror” on paper and her nurses understood her. As she gazed at herself, Malala reflected, “I only recognized half of my face. The other half was unfamiliar. But I believed in my strength. I believed I would get out of the hospital and run like a wolf, fly like an eagle.” Most would have retreated.

However, passion-and-positivity actions led to Malala’s shared 2014 Nobel Peace Prize at the tender age of 17. Her co-recipient was 60-year-old Kailash Satyarthi; along with his team, he was responsible for more than 86,000 children’s liberation from child labor, slavery and trafficking in India.

Not only has Malala brought attention to girls’ education in her homeland of Pakistan, but her diagonal travels have stretched out to Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brazil, India, Lebanon, Nigeria, and Tanzania. Her non-profit Malala Fund has a mission of providing 12 years of safe, quality education for girls. After graduating from Oxford University with honors (in philosophy, politics and economics), Malala is documenting her legacy. She became a producer of documentaries to teach us about women’s and children’s issues world-wide.

A legacy requires learning from the past while living in the present moment. At age 25Malala already has a blossoming legacy that is far-reaching–from speaking to ambassadors to the United Nations to young girls in almost-forgotten villages. Her take-a-stand compassion for the plight of girls and women is an inspiration. When compassion is shared, we experience what Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho describes as “…a precious moment. It is a little parenthesis in eternity.”

Unfortunately, everyone does not understand and/or embrace the importance of education for every child in every part of the planet. U.S. culture is highly individualistic; we need to raise consciousness for the interdependent nature of meeting every person’s basic rights. Receiving a minimum of 12 years of education must be considered a basic right.

We might consider that every child is a pearl waiting to evolve.

Pearls of Peace (PoP) Quiz:

119. Where might you move on the diagonal to take action for women and child rights?

120. In what ways can you share your compassion for some take-a-stand cause?

By Janis Johnston

Janis Clark Johnston, Ed.D., has a doctorate in counseling psychology from Boston University. She has worked with children, families, and groups (ages 3-83) with presenting issues of anxiety, depression, trauma, loss, and relationship concerns. She initially worked as a school psychologist in public schools and was awarded School Psychology Practitioner of the Year for Region 1 in Illinois for her innovative work. She was a supervising psychologist at a mental health center, an employee-assistance therapist and a trainer for agencies prior to having a family therapy private practice. Recipient of the 2011 Founder’s Award for her dedication to the parenting education of Parenthesis Family Center (now called New Moms), and the 2002 Community Spirit Award from Sarah’s Inn, a domestic violence shelter and education center, Johnston is an active participant in numerous volunteer activities supporting children and families in her community. A frequent presenter at national psychology and educational conferences, Johnston has published journal articles, book chapters, and two books -- It Takes a Child to Raise a Parent: Stories of Evolving Child and Parent Development (2013, hardback; 2019, paperback) and Midlife Maze: A Map to Recovery and Rediscovery after Loss (2017, hardback; 2019, paperback). In addition to augmenting and supporting personal growth in families, Johnston is a Master Gardener and loves nurturing growth in the plants in her yard.


  1. Malala is an inspirational young woman! Loved the Coelho quote: “…a precious moment. It is a little parenthesis in eternity.”


  2. We only have “moments,” one right after another! When we are mindful, we “catch” what we are thinking and doing. In the present moment we can make a course correction if we find that we are traveling in some wayward direction.


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