This picture came across my desk, and I was awestruck.

This is truly what this blog is all about. It’s about not just changing the world, but constantly changing ourselves so that the world will be a better place because we are in it.

When I was a new father, and my daughter was 4, she asked me to teach her how to skateboard. I looked at her, in her cute little frilly dress and I told her….No, I’m sorry honey…that’s too rough for you. You might fall and skin your knee.

On her 5th birthday, we were at a park. There was a lull at the party and I found myself standing next to my newly 5 year old and an oak tree with low hanging branches. She stood there in her brand new bright pink “princess gown” her mom bought her just for the party. She looked up at me and asked if she could climb the tree. I told her no. Then she walked over to a branch and explained to me how easy it would be. I explained to her that girls in “princess gowns” don’t climb trees. Girls shouldn’t climb trees because it’s not what girls do.  She looked up at me with her big brown eyes and cocked her head to one side and asked, “Why not?”

I didn’t have an answer. Had I really done this? Had i really subjected her to this sexism at such a young age? Yes, I had. I was so disappointed with myself and the society that taught me to limit what my daughter was able to do because of her gender. How dare I teach her that there are limits on her life. At that moment everything changed…..everything!

I lifted her up on the branch and looked her straight in the eye and told her in my best Daddy voice I could: Never ever let anyone tell you you can’t do something because you’re a girl. Never ever let obstacles stand in your way. If you want to do something, do it. But remember, always look for ways to be respectful, kind, and help people.” I paused and looked up at the tree. “As for this tree, well we’re climbing it!”

We climbed up that oak tree. When she couldn’t reach a branch I lifted her up. We climbed all the way to the top of that old oak tree, and looked down at all 20 kids running around below. We looked out to the horizon and over all the other trees in the whole park. We were on top of the world, and my daughter just simply beamed!!!  When we got down the gown was tattered and torn. When her mom asked what she had done, she told her how she climbed to the top of the tallest tree in that park…and to this day, she talks about how we climb trees together and about that speech I gave her.

It’s a speech I believe every boy and girl should hear. Gender equality is more than just thinking boys and girls can do the same thing or having women open the door for themselves. It’s more than allowing boys to wear their hair long and paint their fingernails. It’s about acceptance and a world without limits. Gender equality is truly seeing that we all can do amazing things regardless of our gender.

No one should ever have limits placed on them, nor should a person ever put limits on themselves. Sadly, that is what a domestic violence relationship does –  it limits what a person can do and what a person thinks they are allowed or able to do. When you speak to your children, the kids around you, and the people you are friends with – you have to take that stand on domestic violence. Put yourself out there and say what you feel….because the more people hear it, the more people realize that they aren’t alone.

We must change ourselves to not only become an advocate for women’s rights, but also becoming an advocate for the rights of abused people all over the world. It is very possible that the person standing next to you on the tube (subway), the person in the bathroom with you, the person you just shared an elevator with, and the person who shares the cubicle or office next you very well might be a victim or a recent survivor.  They need to know that there’s help out there, there are people who believe in ending this, and domestic violence is NOT ACCEPTABLE.

Changing yourself to be the person, or a person, who takes this stand and makes it public, will be the agent of change this world is looking for. Even if you are only the agent of change in your little part of the world, you are the light in the darkness that everyone is looking for.