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Check It Out: Young international 'hero' is reason for thanksgiving

Jodi Schultz

The fourth Thursday in November typically finds many Americans feasting with family and friends.

At some point during the holiday we may reflect on things for which we are thankful. Chances are, my "I am Thankful for" list would look like a lot of other people's. It would include my health, my family and my job.

But, even for an avid list maker, the "thankful list on demand" can feel contrived and a bit empty. So, instead of continuing, I'll shift gears and share some thoughts on a recent event that brought to light some things for which I am most grateful.

It's not unusual to hear a snippet of bad news on the radio or see a segment on television that highlights somebody's misfortune, or another person's cruelty. Usually, though I'm not proud to admit it, whatever atrocity it is that I heard or saw flows into and out of my conscious thoughts in a matter of minutes as I move through the routines of my day.

Sometimes, though, I'm affected on a deeper level. Such was the case on Oct. 9. I was gripped by the overwhelming urge to weep as I listened to a reporter relay the details of a shooting in Pakistan. The shooting was an assassination attempt, the target, a 15-year-old girl. Her offense - speaking as an advocate for education for girls.

I'd never heard her name or knew she existed. Still, in that moment, a rush of emotion, fierce and protective, swept through me and I felt something akin to a mother's love for this girl, Malala. I have two daughters, one a little older than Malala, and one a little younger.

Perhaps that intensified my reaction. I thought of my children. Like Malala, they are smart and articulate, and not afraid to stand up for themselves or others. I'm proud of them.

But I've sometimes forgotten to be thankful for the fact that we've never had to worry that they might suffer physical harm or even death for expressing their opinions.

No matter how strong our convictions, speaking them has never required the level of courage it took for Malala Yousufzai to publicly state that she thinks girls should be allowed to go to school.

I am thankful that my daughters are allowed to attend school. I'm also thankful for their freedom of speech. My family has never had to fight for these basic rights and often takes them for granted.

My heart is heavy when I am reminded that many in our world don't have these freedoms. Some, like the brave young woman in Pakistan, choose to speak up, to promote change, fully aware that they may sacrifice their lives in their attempt to create a better world for others.

We are all, on some level, indebted to them. I am thankful for those people.

Specifically, today, I am thankful for the lionhearted girl, Malala Yousufzai. She is a hero, and I hope she'll never be silenced.