“Unity does not mean sameness. It means oneness in purpose.” —Priscilla Shirer
“What are the most difficult challenges girls your age have faced since March 2020?”
I fully expected there would be a few seconds of uncomfortable silence after I asked this question to my advisory board last month. We had gathered over Zoom to brainstorm future content for Body Truth, a ministry that helps girls see themselves with love, as Jesus sees us.
But to my surprise, girls started speaking over each other as soon as I finished asking the question. Each girl either had experienced or had seen their friends experience some pretty hard stuff in the last twelve months. Of these eight girls, ranging in age from 16 to 20 years old, 100 percent of them were ready to share.
“I’ve seen girls really struggle with how they feel about their bodies. Because we’re all learning from our professors from behind screens and not getting out as much, it’s harder to be active. A few of my friends are saying mean things about themselves because they have gained weight, what they’re calling the ‘COVID-19.’”
“Yeah, I’ve heard that, too, on my college campus. It’s harder to take care of yourself when you have to be SO careful about going everywhere. I’ve also heard a lot of people saying they feel isolated and alone. I keep hearing the word ‘depression’ come up.”
“So, at our high school, it’s similar but different. Even though we get to go in person a few days a week, we’re all in masks and have to stay distanced from each other. I had no idea how important it was to be close to people. Like, even just close enough to hear each other. I’m ready for COVID to be over.”
“Relationships are hard, too. Friendships especially. Social media helps, but sometimes it actually causes problems.”
Although each girl responded by building on the previous girl’s response, each response was distinct. No two answers were the same, and that is par for the course in our board meetings. Collectively, we belong to a variety of cultural backgrounds, family structures, and places of worship. Some girls attend public school, and some attend private school. Our girls live and go to school in neighborhoods across the country, representing a mix of Asian, Caucasian, African, African-American, and Latina heritages. Our Catholic, Episcopalian, and Evangelical worship experiences do not divide us but instead enrich our conversations.
Conversing with these unique young women taught me that there are steps we can take toward healing from a hard year. When we share authentically with one another while embracing our differences, we can grow stronger together as a community who wants to please God.