Let’s Talk About Girls – #15Girls

sugar and spice

“How much do you know about girls?” is the title of a quiz that National Public Radio published online a couple of days ago. The quiz is only seven questions and comes from a special series that NPR is doing called #15Girls. The series takes the listener from El Salvador to India; from the soccer field to a school for child brides. It is an eye-opening look into the lives of girls around the world.

Here are some other things I’ve learned through the series:

  • Worldwide, there are 600 million girls between the ages of 10-19.
  • Nearly half of those live in 7 countries.
  • The United States has a lower percentage of women in Congress than Pakistan and China do in their national assemblies.
  • One fifth of the world’s adolescent girls live in India.

There is so much more. The story on the school for child brides in India gives a perspective that most in the Western world have never heard. The story of how a girl’s choice in El Salvador means life or death. There are stories on soccer, education, marriage, and cool girls. To make it easy, just click on the pictures and the link will take you directly to the site.

It’s not all sad. These girls are strong and resilient, and they want to change things for other girls. Take a listen and weigh in on what you think through the comments.

See the entire series here: #15GirlsSeries and click here to take the quiz.

Girls start the day with a prayer at the Veerni Institute in Jodhpur, India. It's a boarding school where nearly half the students are child brides.
Girls start the day with a prayer at the Veerni Institute in Jodhpur, India. It’s a boarding school where nearly half the students are child brides.
A girl looks away from the body of an assassinated man, who was killed by a gang member in San Salvador.
A girl looks away from the body of an assassinated man, who was killed by a gang member in San Salvador.

Martha Mullen Responds to Unwanted Bodies

At the same time Marilyn wrote the post on “Unwanted Bodies”, Robynn was writing one of her own: “Martha Mullen responds to Unwanted Bodies”. Such is the connection that develops between two people who want to communicate through words. 


I have a new hero. I first heard about her on the radio several weeks ago. I was driving my car mindlessly, half listening to All Things Considered on National Public Radio when a story piqued my interest.

It was a modern-day parable of grace and convictions; of faith and love. As I listened I started to cry.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan by Jan Wijna...

Martha Mullen was also listening to NPR when she heard the report that the Tsarnaev family couldn’t find a place to bury their son, Tamerlan. Tamerlan Tsarnaev is the alleged bomber who died a month ago in Boston. He and his younger brother are accused of  plotting and  planning for the Boston Marathon bombings. These two brothers planted two pressure cooker bombs 210 yards apart at the finish line of the marathon. Three people were killed. 264 were injured. It was senseless. It was an evil act. But when Martha Mullen heard the story on the radio she thought somebody should do something. She decided she was that somebody. In the NPR interview she said, “It made me think of Jesus’ words: Love your enemies. I felt that, also, (Tamerlan) was being maligned probably because he was Muslim. And Jesus tells us to – in the parable of the Good Samaritan – to love your neighbor as yourself. And your neighbor is not just someone you belong with but someone who is alien to you. That was the biggest motivation, is that, you know, if I’m going to live my faith, then I’m going to do that which is uncomfortable and not necessarily that’s what comfortable”.

As I listened to the interview I was astounded by Martha’s simple faith. She took her faith to heart and she reached across the faith-divide, across the country, to a family who were grieving and who had no place to bury their son.

Like Peter Stefan, she chose to want the unwanted; to claim the unclaimed.

Martha Mullen is an ordinary woman. She’s married. She has a dog. She goes to a Methodist church. There’s not that much written about her. She really isn’t famous. Or she wasn’t. Until now. When she made the choice to get involved. Like the Good Samaritan in the parable, she crossed the street and ministered to a family that was hurting. She did more than think about or wear the ridiculous bracelet that wonders “What would Jesus Do?” –she did what he would do.

I want to be like Martha Mullen. I want to see those who are different from me as my true neighbour. I want to do the right thing. I want my faith to mean something.  True religion reaches out to the bereaved, to the widow, the orphan, the grieving. True faith says I choose to identify with those that Jesus identifies with–the marginalized, the foreigner, the displaced, the lost. The Unwanted.

It’s astonishing to me that there has been an angry backlash against Mullen. But she wasn’t surprised. Neither does she regret her choices. Psalm chapter 16 contains this delightful statement: “The godly in the land are my true heroes! I take pleasure in them”. I take pleasure in Martha Mullen. She is one of my new true heroes. As an Ambassador of Love she did the right thing. When the protesters are now silent and the grumpy are done showing their displeasure at her mercy, I want to say, “Thank you Martha for doing the right thing. Thank you for giving us an example of what it means to actively choose to identify with the Unwanted.” 

American Invasion – In Scotland??

“In Scotland, there’s been an American Invasion – but it’s not exactly what it sounds like.”

And so began a story on National Public Radio on Scotland being “overrun” by American Minks. Yes. Our minks have overtaken Scotland and the Scots will have none of it. In fact, they have one goal – to kill them all. You read that correctly – all of them.

These minks, exported to the United Kingdom at some point in the 1950’s have been able to breed like rabbits. But unlike rabbits, it turns out that minks are pretty vicious creatures (maybe so they won’t be made into fur coats) and they are killing off small mammals called voles. I did not remember this until the NPR segment, but a vole is the beloved main character in the children’s book “Wind in the Willows” by Kenneth Grahame, a Scottish novelist. To kill off voles is an act of war as they are part of every childs imagination and every adults memory.

A volunteer army has risen in Scotland to fight this war and they will not stop until they have achieved their aim of ridding the country of these pests of American variety.  As in any war, there are those who are against the activity and they too were interviewed saying in effect “It’s not the minks fault!”

The humor with which NPR developed and reported this story is not to be missed, as they subtly linked it to the common consensus on the world stage that our invasions, whether mink or human, are not as welcome as we may surmise. Along with that is their ability in the midst of crisis, when my brain and empathy quotient are heavy with fatigue from events playing out across the globe, to bring us a story light and humorous in comparison. I have to catch myself and my tendency to consider it a sign of disrespect to not follow every detail of a crisis, rushing to the television, radio or whatever source of media I have to make sure that I haven’t missed anything substantive. With this story, I recognized how grateful I was to be able to listen and laugh guilt free, not feeling as though I was being disloyal to a subject or a cause. I had a moment of panic thinking “Even our minks are overbearing and ethnocentric…!” But that passed and I was able to enjoy the story. As a human I have limited ability to continue effectively in my present surroundings if glued to events of which I have no control. It does not mean I should, or will, stop caring, watching, reading or listening to the news. But taking a small break to think about a volunteer army of Scots waging war on minks of American descent is a perfectly acceptable diversion.

The end of the story?  To quote directly from NPR “… this war seems to have no end. Once scientists clear the minks out of Scotland, they plan to drive the American invaders out of the whole of Britain.” and with that I’ll say Happy Friday!