I was trying to get backstage when someone grabbed my hand. It was a young girl shaking with sobs. I bent over to ask if she was ok, and she grabbed me close. She attempted to talk a few time, then took a deep breath. She looked straight into my eyes, and said, through tears,
I know Ally. I love Ally. Ally saved my life.
We were at We Day Chicago. The We Day website says it is “Youth coming together to make the world a better place is the global movement of our time—We Day is this movement.” I would say it’s a celebration of those who are wanting to change the world. There is so much to say about We Day, but I need to bring you back to this moment.
My daughter was backstage somewhere getting ready for a big surprise. I watched her walk away confidently, ready to do this thing. We were in the Allstate Arena, where over 18,000 teens were screaming, shouting and sharing their excitement at being with so many people like them. Selena Gomez took the stage, and the kids erupted. I heard Selena say my daughters name, talked about bullying, and how Ally decided to be proud, be strong, and most of all, #BeBrave. Then, Ally’s face filled the stage, and her story was shared.
I wept. I often think my heart can’t break any more than it did the day I walked into a room to find a broken girl attempting to end her own life to escape the pain of constant bullying. I was wrong.
I watched as her story showed everything about her ordeal. It showed her face as she remembered those awful names she was called, the taunts to kill herself. I could see her reliving it. I relived it. I could see in her eyes that she could hear those voices again screaming at her to DIE! DIE! DIE! – that she was unworthy of life because she was nothing more then the victim they chose, because she was fat, because she stood for something different than what they did, for daring to stand up to them. I saw it change. I saw her face brighten, and in her eyes, in her soul, in her heart, you could see she believed in herself again. She promised herself, once she decided to live, that she would do whatever she could to help anyone, ever again from feeling as she did. She explained about her blog, Losergurl. She talked about what it meant to #BeBrave and to #BeMoreThanABystander. It ended, not with her as a victim, but with her as a victor. The screen rose. The music started. Each time she sang a word, I sang it back to her, in my heart.
Ally walk onto the stage with a microphone in her hand, a song on her lips, and smile on her face. She sang with Colbie Calliet and BabyFace to the song they co-wrote, Try, and I have to admit. when they crowd went crazy when she walked on stage, I lost it. My heart broke again. This time, when my heart cracked open all the pain I had inside me from the time that my baby wanted to die flew out and it healed up. I watched Ally sing and reclaimed her joy. She was reborn. She took what was the worst time in her life, and decided to use it make a new life- a place where she would make a change.
As the song ended and all those kids rose to a standing ovation, I couldn’t wait to get to get backstage to my girl, when it happened – when the young girl grabbed my hand. She and I both dissolved into tears again, and I held this young woman who I do not know, but I know. I know her soul, and I know the hard work she is doing to reclaim it. I know my daughter did what she started out to do.
Ally wants people to know, it will get better. She got better. They will. She is proof of it. All you have to do is Be Brave.
Ally is so brave.
We Day may be a celebration of young people, but I guarantee you that each and every adult of one of the amazing kids on that stage was celebrating, too. I shared knowing looks with Imani’s Mom, Ezra’s Dad, Ashley’s Mom, and many more as we found kindred spirits of being the ones to stand beside the kids who want to change the world. All of our kids have found their way to a good place after fighting through hardships. In our case, depression and bullying didn’t just affect Ally, it affected our whole family. This was Ally’s triumph, yes, but it was also ALL our triumph. We ALL got through this.
We Day Chicago will be aired as a prime-time special on August 21, on ABC. You can see Ally, and many, many other inspiring young people who are determined to change the world, to to mention stars like Common, Selena Gomez, Jennifer Hudson, Magic Johnson, The Band Perry, Tyrese Gibson, Demi Lovato, Nick Jonas, Colbie Caillat, Paul Rudd, Macklemore and a host of others.
You have to join in and watch. In a world when we hear so much about all the bad, it’s wonderful to celebrate those who are tying hard to make it better. We Day does that.