How many times have you heard someone say “I’m at that age now where I can say what I want and no one can stop me?”  I’m guessing they refer to finally “finding their voice” or finding someone or something to defend.   Whenever I  read or hear someone make this comment, I often wonder, when did I find my voice, what inspired me enough to speak up?

I remember in the 1st grade my mother received a note from my teacher saying “Tricia Ann spends her lunch time going around checking on the other children seeing if they are ok or if they need anything. Perhaps, you might help me explain to her to sit and eat her meal instead of worrying about everyone else.” The teacher told my mom that is wasn’t uncommon for me to come to her and say that someone forgot their lunch money and has nothing to eat and then tell her that we need to do something to fix it.  Basically, the teacher wanted me to “mind my own business.” How could I have known all those years ago that I was starting a habit that would follow me for a lifetime? All I knew was that someone must speak out when something is wrong, and I guess I thought, why not me?

Every year my family traveled to Santa Fe, New Mexico for vacation, it was always my favorite trip. It was there, when I was 13, that I first learned about signing petitions as a way to use your voice. Native American women were sitting on blankets outside of a jewelry store protesting non-Native fake work being sold undercutting their beautiful silver and turquoise hand made works of art. Of course, I walked down the sidewalk signing every single petition which horrified my mother. She was sure that I was going to be arrested for something horrible, as was common in the McCarthy Era. To me, I felt it important to stand up for these women who created incredible work and deserved to be paid a fair price.

I believe it was that trip to Santa Fe that I began to realize I could in fact be “a voice for those who did not have one or could not be heard.”  For many years, I have tried to use my voice to bring light to extreme poverty and issues of injustice. I guess at this point of my life, I will continue to use my voice until the end of my days, and try to be thoughtful, not being rude or hurtful as it would diminish the message I voice.

Everyone must find their own voice and how to use it. I now urge my grandchildren to find the things that feel worthy to support and then to find their voices. Speak up and speak out for the issues you find important, bring light to things that need to change. Fight with your voice – often, it can be the most powerful weapon available to you. It never feels good to stay silent when you know something is wrong and having the courage to use your voice for good can be a special gift to yourself.  When you lay your head down on your pillow at night and you review the day, there is no need to count sheep because you know you found your voice and used it in an appropriate way and it mattered.

Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash