Andrew and I were the first ones to adopt K. She has lived with us from the time she was several months old, and we have escorted her through the ups and downs of daily life for seven years.
And then last month there was the great water bottle incident, where K was teased for carrying a Star Wars thermos. The little boys told her during lunch and recess that Star Wars was only for boys. I wrote a post about it, and a lot of people paid attention.
There are countless clubs and organizations out in the world, and I have witnessed the great unifying power of common interests. I have seen waves of emotion shared by people at musical concerts. I have seen sports fans literally go nuts over the outcome of big games. I remember when my husband and I were lucky enough to be attending the White Sox game where Buerhle pitched a perfect game, and the energy connecting the fans was awesome.
But until I wrote the anti-bullying article, I had underestimated the unifying power among the self-named Geeks, Nerds, Star Wars fans and science fiction fans. They can cheer with the best of the sports fans. Aided by the speed and ease of social media, the Geeks sent K's story zipping around the globe.
Without a doubt, they have been the most vocal supporters of K's preference for "boy toys." Their voices are passionate and compassionate. They have left thousands of comments, and the comments tell the story of a group of people who were marginalized during their childhoods for being nerdy and for being girls who liked "boy interests".
They were teased; they were bullied. They were taunted and laughed at and ridiculed. There is a wide spectrum of behavior between teasing and bullying, and the people who have responded to K's story fall all along the spectrum.
What strikes me is how these individuals who were once so isolated are now part of a very tight community. They have found each other; they are plugged into each other, and they have each other's backs. Now they have K's back, too. The Geeks have adopted Katie, taken her by the hand and offered to escort her through life as a girl who likes Star Wars.
"Show me the treasures of darkness," my friend Beth counseled me years ago, when we were both grieving the loss of our first babies. I have always remembered her wise words. There are always gifts to be found in times of trouble.
Time and again, the treasure in the darkness is the goodness in people, the kindness of strangers who hear your story and send their support.
During this holiday season, there have been unexpected gifts for K. These gifts are labors of love from people who have never met her but still care about her.
A Star Wars fan named Melissa knitted a warm soft Princess Leia hat for K to wear this winter. K slipped it on her head and smiled as if her face would break into two pieces.
A first grade teacher named Danielle runs a Star Wars themed classroom in California. Danielle's students all wrote letters to K, complete with beautiful drawings. Danielle bound the letters into a book called Letters To K and sent it on. Today, K woke up sick with a fever, crying and throwing up. In the afternoon, I saw her lying on the couch, huddled under a blanket and reading the letters from a group of children across the country. There was a smile on her face.
An artist for Star Wars named Scott Zirkel drew K a picture of herself as a Jedi holding a light saber. We are framing it to hang in her room.
Above all, there is the gift of other people's stories. These are gifts that cannot be purchased in a store. They cannot be replicated, and they mean the world to us.
And Katie is learning how to reach out to help other children in the same way that she has been helped. A mother named Emily called to tell me that her first grade son was recently teased for bringing My Little Pony for show and tell. She said he was terribly upset by the incident, and when I told K about it, she called to leave a message for the child.
She said, "I am K. I like Star Wars, and you like My Little Pony. I know other boys who like to play with My Little Pony, and it's great, and umm, May the Pony Be With You!" she finished proudly.
It is a gift to watch your child grow.
At K's school, the entire week coming up is dedicated to learning about gender bias. On Friday, December 10th, her school is having Proud To Be Me Day and is encouraging all students to wear something that represents their special interests regardless of gender (i.e. a girl in a Star Wars shirt or a boy in a princess shirt).
It is a gift to watch a group of people come together to support the blue girls and pink boys struggling to navigate life in a society that can be rigidly split along gender lines. It is a treasure in the darkness.