April 2017 Report: Inspiration from Malala Yousafzai (& A Debt Milestone Reached)

Malala Yousafzai speaking in our high school auditorium.

Malala Yousafzai’s visit to our school

I’m a high school teacher, and on April 12, our school had the most incredible honour. In advance of a special assembly to recognize the importance of girls’ education, we were told that Sophie Grégoire-Tudeau, the wife of our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, would be speaking to us, along with two cabinet ministers. We understood that they would be responding to questions and concerns raised by our students about education for girls, and that they would pass these concerns along to Malala Yousafzai, who would be made an honorary Canadian citizen later in the day at Parliament.

The speakers were amazing. Maryam Monsef, Minister of the Status of Women, and Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development were clearly passionate about their work and vision. There was thunderous applause when they introduced Grégoire-Trudeau, and she connected so warmly and powerfully with our students. It became clear as she spoke, however, that she herself was introducing someone.  “Could it be . . . ?” I wondered, along with everyone else in the auditorium. “I think you know who I’m about to introduce,” Grégoire-Trudeau said after a meaningful pause. “This is a day you will remember.”

When Malala Yousafzai stepped onto the stage to a standing ovation, there were many tears. Some were mine. An outspoken advocate for girls’ education in her native Pakistan, she was targeted by the Taliban and shot in the head on a school bus at age 15 in 2012. Miraculously, Malala survived the attack, and she was catapulted into a position on the world stage, a symbol of the movement for girls’ rights to education.

She carries that mantle with an understated power and gracious humility, and her talk to our students was marvelous. Grégoire-Trudeau was right. It was a day we will all remember.

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Grégoire-Trudeau introduces Malala Yousafzai.             Malala speaks to our students.

The importance of a supportive dad to a daughter

In her talk, Malala honoured her father. She said that on the day that she was born, neighbours came to visit her parents – not to congratulate them on the birth of their girl, but to offer them comfort on the disappointment of having a female child, and hope that the next one would be a boy. Her father, however, valued Malala as much as he eventually did the two sons who were to follow. He included her name on the family tree – the first female name to be written in its 300 year history. He ran the school for girls that Malala attended, and championed her right to an education.

In a TED talk, he said that when people ask him what he did to foster such power in his daughter, his answer is this: “Don’t ask me what I did. Ask me what I did not do. I did not clip her wings.”

Connection to debt?

This is a blog about debt-reduction, and so I’ve got to make an abrupt turn here. How many of us clip our own wings? How many of us clip our wings with the debt we take on? How much of our collective potential is being drained by the obligations of our indebtedness?

Another debt-reduction milestone in April

Our personal journey out of debt can be seen as a patching of those clipped wings, and we hit another significant milestone in this patching work during the month of April. To recap, when we started out in June of 2012, we had:

  • $21,400 in consumer debt
  • $80,800 in business debt
  • $155,000 in mortgage debt
  • For a grand total of $257,000

The road to debt-freedom is a long one, and so it’s important to recognize milestones along the way. By this point, almost 5 years later, we’ve passed many milestones:

And for April 2017? Our mortgage – our only remaining debt – is now less than our business debt originally was. In April, we slipped under  the $80,000 mark to $79,200.

Using my patched wings

And what are we doing with our patched wings? At Fruclassity this week, I wrote about the guitar that my husband bought and the children’s book that I’m self-publishing. Ella Builds a Wall is now being printed, and it will be in my hands soon.If you’re interested, you can see a trailer of the book here. It’s something I didn’t have the freedom to pursue for years and years, and I’m so glad to have this opportunity now.

How about you? Does your debt “clip your wings”? Is it draining your potential to do the things that are important to you? Your comments are welcome.


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18 CommentsLeave a comment

    • She really is incredible. I put her on a level with Nelson Mandela – another person with whom I just feel privileged to have had intersecting lifespans. I don’t blame you for being jealous : )

    • He absolutely is, Kay. It’s fathers and men like him who make it possible for girls to grow into women who are free to live life to the full.

  • How amazing that you got to hear Malala speak. I love the quote from her father – thank you for sharing that. Congrats on the debt milestone! It won’t be long before you’ll be writing that debt free post! 🙂

    • I love that quote too, Amanda : ) As for our debt-free post, it’s still a ways off yet. I think of a $79,000 mortgage as being a very small one – until I think about what it will actually take to pay it off. But we’ve gone 5 years now. Another 2? We can do it!

  • That is so cool you and your school got to hear Malala speak! What an inspiring story, and a powerful quote from her father.

    And huge congrats on your debt payoff progress. You have reached quite a few milestones and having such a relatively small portion left to go is exciting!

    • Thank you, Kalie. It was such a surreal privilege! As for our debt-payoff, “relatively” is the key word in what you say. It’s actually a different type of challenge to keep in pursuit of debt-freedom as it gets closer. Eyes on the prize!

  • Malala is such a role model for all of us. You were fortunate indeed to hear her speak in the flesh. What an inspiration for your students.
    Congratulations on entering the home stretch in your debt reduction – I bet you can you almost taste victory? The excitement is starting to build …

    • So many of our students – and I would have to say, especially our girls – were inspired by Malala. One student on stage later said she was embarrassed because she just couldn’t stop crying! She will never forget that experience, and it might well influence her pat.
      So you call $79,000 the home stretch? I do too sometimes, but I think it might be premature. And yes, I can taste victory, but I’m almost afraid to presume. Trying not to be too excited : )

  • What an amazing experience, I’m so glad that you had it and were able to share with us!

    As hard as we women fight for equality, it’s so important that men be our allies in doing exactly what Malala’s father did: refuse to place societal devaluation on the women in his life and shield her from it enough for her to grow into her own. And what a spectacular “own” that is!

    • Well said, Revanche! Men who are allies in this endeavor are of such great value – as fathers, husbands, brothers, friends, colleagues . . . Her father has said that Malala used to be known as his daughter. Now, he’s known as her father. And he wouldn’t have it any other way. A truly great man!

  • What an inspiring post. I love Malala’s father’s quote – so true!! So much of what we can give to our children is tied up in simply not clipping their wings. And I love how you tied this into debt!! Huge congrats on your milestone, Ruth. You guys are kicking it!

  • To hear Malala must have been amazing – especially in light of what is happening in the US these days – we could use some inspiration. Next, I am glad to see your journey to debt reduction has been successful, and that you began that path 5 years ago. We began ours a year ago, and have much further to go; hopefully, we will be in good shape sooner rather than later. I know that glow of knowing “yeah, we got money in the bank for this problem!” – thanks for sharing all with us today.

    • Thank you, N. Well done, starting your journey to debt-freedom! To be a year in is no small deal. You are no doubt forming new habits that will feel more natural and easy over the years to come. All the best as you make your way towards zero!

    • Thank you, Owen. It’s officially $180,000 in principle over 5 years plus the interest plus savings – plus significant purchases we’ve made without using debt – including a new roof. We’re living off a smaller percentage of our take-home pay than we ever have before, and it’s had a powerful impact. We only wish we’d started sooner.

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