August 11, 2016By Brittnee Taylor Newman
My niece turned the very precocious age of five today. She’s sweet and funny and delightfully overrun with chaotic kinetic energy, as most little girls are. One year ago, on her fourth birthday, I wrote this letter to her and thought it felt appropriate to share today.
I’m writing this when you’re still little; too little for me to really know what kind of encouragement your precious heart might one day need. I already know you’re smart, sweet, curious and blissfully innocent. On top of all of these wonderful things, I’m also praying you will grow up to be brave.
Bravery sounds like a noble, adventurous word. It makes me think of the Disney princess, with her long, tousled braid, and bow-and-arrow in hand as she stares down from a rocky mountaintop into the Valley of Victory. She’s so pretty and determined, that princess, collecting love-struck princes like sidewalk pennies all along her journey.
But Dear P.: real bravery is sometimes not so pretty. Sometimes it’s ignoring your shaking knees, sweaty palms, and nervous stomach while waiting in the wings backstage in an auditorium. Sometimes it’s taking your money, food, or resources, and finding ways to share, despite the fact that they’re limited. Sometimes it’s sticking up for what you know is right, no matter what others say. Sometimes it’s feeling a little out-of-place because of your love for creating beautiful things, but creating them anyways.
Being the brave girl staring down from that mountaintop will require conquering your fear, your uncertainty, and the quicksand of complacency.
Yes, dear princess, sometimes your hair, your hands, and even your heart will get—gasp—dirty.
I hope you find it within you to truly be brave, and I hope you’ll grow up one day to raise more tender little girls who will have brave hearts as well. Daughters who don’t mind getting a little dirty to fight for the causes they believe in; who’ll rescue people they find mired in the muddiness of misery and abuse; who will pursue their biggest dreams, and run their best race whether the crowd cheers them on or not. I hope you encourage the women around you to run their best race as well: that you are brave enough to share the spotlight with them when they’ve earned it, to inspire them when needed; to hold accountable when it’s uncomfortable but necessary.
I know that bravery sounds like a lot of work. Sometimes it is, but it’s the most richly-rewarded thing you’ll ever do.
You’ll see these opportunities to be brave before too much longer, but you won’t be staring down the side of a mountain. You’ll be practicing for a ballet recital, sharing an honest devotional time with mom, playing a sport with the boys, sticking up for a friend, or staring down the hallway from your locker at school, waiting to present a project you worked really hard on.
Every time you grab your bow and set out to pursue honesty, authenticity, creativity, kindness or justice, it will get a little bit easier. And you, dear princess, you will get a little bit more brave.
I love you,