Here, let’s try this: You pick my pockets and then we both see just how loud I can sing.

You doing o.k.?” he asked, towering over me. Three Times My Size.

“Yea, I am fine. Thank you.”

I could feel him up against me, we were both packed tightly into the cramped subway car. No moving room. Nowhere to move.

Just making sure,” he replied, flashing a wide smile at me.

I smiled back with uneasiness. My lips pursed with the realization that the tugging at my bag just moments before had not been my imagination. That his checking up on my look of apprehension was not a genuine, heartfelt gesture but a way to cover up what he really should have said. “I just stole from you. I just reached into your pocket and took your metro card and your money and now I will proceed to smile and walk away now.”

And that is just what he did.

You could have never held your bag tighter. You could have never spoken up the second you realized he had reached into your purse pocket.  There are just some things that you could not have done and in those moments you just stand there and you take it and you find a quiet space in your mind to count your blessings all the way home. And you wish in your head that you had not been so naive or that he had not smiled at you. “If you are going to steal from me then just do it,” you think to yourself. “I have much better smiles in my life, I never needed yours.”

And maybe you get home and you double bolt your door behind you and you find a place to sit down. You put on “Hey there, Delilah” because for some reason that song really comforts you, the thought of someone thinking your spirit is comparable to the brightness of Times Square maybe. And you just sit there and you pick your mind for reasons as to why you are so agitated. It is not because he took your metro card. It is not because he stole some money or a Starbucks gift card that a friend gave to you. It could have been worse, much worse. No, no. You are agitated and infuriated for another reason altogether. For The Fact That You Have Never Felt So Small In Your Life. So Little. So Helpless. So Without A Voice. Regardless of what was taken and how much he still managed to reach into your life and take from it. Reach Into Your Space And Violate It. And you imagine that feeling of violation won’t go away so quickly. It will stay and it will pester you but eventually it will dare you to do something more.

And you sarcastically wish that man well, him with his deceiving smile and all, and you pray that if he uses your Starbucks card tonight that he will order “Skinny” instead of whole milk. Because he desperately needed the Skinny (but that is as mean as you will get). And you sit there longer and you draw back your comment. Anger is not a pretty quality. Resentment never serves a purpose. Nasty Comments Get No One Any Where.

And so you reach for the phone and you call people. You call home. You call your roommates. You call for comfort and validation. And they will all agree with you that what he did was wrong. Oh, he got you good, he even managed to squeeze a smile out of you. And from every voice that picks up on the ends of another telephone, no matter how many miles away, you realize you will never be alone. That no matter what happens, if there is some kind of injustice in your life someone else will pick up the phone and validate it. Or squeeze you a little tighter. Or offer you support in the form of a prayer or a shoulder.

And because of this, you stop feeling so sorry for yourself, for the fact that some jerk is feeling a little more empowered today, and you realize that you are absolutely blessed to be able to speak up. To have a voice. To feel violated but to be able to say it, because somewhere in Afghanistan a woman just became a victim and no one said a word. Because somewhere in China another mother just had her baby girl ripped from her arms, And No One Listened to Her Screaming. And it happens in Sudan & Uganda & Ethiopia. Femicide. Honour Killings. Rape. It happens absolutely everywhere at every moment except that no woman can say a word.

And it is almost funny because you spend most of your days going from meeting after meeting at the United Nations about Women and their Status. And you are all about the “Girl Power.” And you put on your high heels and you smile at cute business men at busy intersections because you know you are feminine and you “own it.” But you have never really taken on the twang of Shania to say, “Man, I feel like a woman” for any of that stuff.

However, you have never felt so much womanhood as when he reached into your pocketbook and took what was yours. You have never felt so much womanhood as when you picked up the phone and you told someone what happened. And you realize that God gave you syllables & words to speak out. And some women don’t have that. Some women will never have that.

And that is when you realize that being a woman in this country, a real woman, has nothing to do with the height of your heels. The Size of Your Chest. The Color of Your Hair. It has nothing to do with cramming yourself into tiny little boxes labeled “pretty” and “petite.” Nor does it have anything to do with the Fad Diets or the Beauty Magazines or All The Weight that She Just Lost. It has nothing to do with the Competition you find for yourself or the Bad Mouthing you do over a social networking site. No. No. Being a woman in this country means you have a voice and a choice over how you will use it.

And you realize that you have the freedom to speak and so you do. You put down the arms of Competition & Jealousy & Envy & Dislike for other women and you pick up better Ammo. A Voice that is Strong. A Heart that is Kind. A Mouth that is Classy, Speaking Words of Love rather than Hatred. Unkind Words won’t get you far, and if they do, then have fun looking the mirror at the end of the day. Arms that Hold. Brains that Push You Forward. Drive & Ambition that no one can steal from you. A Spirit that will be Relentless for the Lives & Dignity & Happiness of Other Women. Other Voiceless Women Who Share The Same Heart Songs With You. And you will sing. Sing for Them. Sing for your Sister and for your Mother. Your Best Friend. Your Mentor.

And then you will smile. Oh, you will smile. Much Larger than that Man Who Stole from You. And you will tuck yourself into bed tonight knowing that God made no mistake in making you a Woman and giving you a voice. And with those two factors clearly intertwined, you will realize that it is time to make noise.

It is time to make noise.



17 thoughts on “Here, let’s try this: You pick my pockets and then we both see just how loud I can sing.

  1. Always a silver lining.

    I have always told myself that should I find myself in a similar situation, I would pity the thief, because if he took it, then he was desperate and needed it.

    I can imagine, I would react much as you have, though I have no guarantee that I would find such graceful balance, though, as you. Nor could I give such powerful words to it.

    You’ve truly got a voice, one much stronger and louder than most, but meek, gracious, and effective.

  2. This made me so angry (not your post) but what happened. I really want to believe in people–believe they are better than all of this. but after two incidents like that in one month–I find it so very hard . I am glad you can still smile, but I do know what is going on inside of you, that feeling of being completely violated. I couldn’t even bring myself to bring my canvas bag with me to Italy because of the thought that someone else hands rummaged through it. i might be some thousand miles away, but if you need me i’m just a message away.

  3. Clearly that man didn’t know who he was dealing with. Maybe someone somewhere will stumble upon this when they google “pickpocket” and try to find ways to be better at it or something. Then, maybe, they’ll take a second to think about what they’re about to do and it’ll change their mind. Maybe.

  4. I’m really sorry that happened to you, but I loved this post. What kind of work are you doing with women at the UN? I’m in similar work and I’d love to hear about it =)

    1. I am a liaison for a NGO at the UN and our big issues of focus are education & trafficking. So I joined onto the NGO Committee for the Commission of the Status of Women and the UNICEF Working Group for Girls. It is really cool to be on the inside of these things, right now we are working on the big CSW conference coming up in February with a focus on bringing young girls to the conference. What work are you doing?

    1. Unfortunately not, though I wish I could! I will be attending a UN education impact conference on Water so I will have to be speaking up for that one…

      But I love Free the Children, always such innovative campaigns.

  5. This is fabulous, Hannah. Your voice is pure and honest and evocative. Being stolen from is a violation, regardless of the circumstances, but you make it human and push through to redemption. Good on ya and thank you for sharing.

  6. I’m so sorry this happened to you, Hannah. It made me sad to think how it made you feel, because I know it would’ve made me feel scared and small.

    But once again, you’ve managed to turn it around and focus on the bigger picture. You are so right. Every word. You could start a movement with your words. 🙂

  7. You are, by far, the most graceful person I have ever known. May God continue to bless you with grace, and a powerful voice that speaks to the core of every person who listens to it. Thank you for breathing hope into your words. It ALWAYS comes through.

  8. Someone tried to break into my house on Sunday – broad daylight, while I was out of town – and what you said about feeling small is something I’m completely understanding right now. Nothing was taken and it could have been so much worse but the feeling of violation is still very much there and I’m having a hard time not looking suspiciously at the punks in my neighborhood, which really doesn’t solve the crime or make it any better. Wishing harm and being angry doesn’t do any good.

  9. AH! I can’t believe that he did that and then looked you in the eye and smiled. I’m so sorry; I am glad you’re safe though.

    I love that you put a positive spin on it though 🙂 <3. Stay strong, doll. You're amazing!

  10. when you called me i was furious that he got away with that, but glad that he wasn’t behind you when you got to your stop & i did think of your doors & locks and many other gruesome worries and then i prayed thankful you were okay & that the lord would put protection all around you , i put you and all the worries in His loving arms and was able to sleep your attitude and words surrounding this sitch are awesome your voice is heard much love also enjoyed reading all the comments

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