What do you do if you are ashamed of your body? What should you do if you have a friend who needs help but refuses it? What is love? How do you know if you can trust someone? Why are girls so competitive? Will you always be in a fight with your mom? Why is it when people give you compliments, you can still feel ugly?
This past fall, I found myself sitting in a circle talking with a group of teenage girls on a football field at a school in Michigan. We were there to talk about the private questions that were on their minds and in their hearts. This group was especially tight-lipped at first. "It's okay," I told myself. "I'm sure pretty soon the magic of this group will reveal itself, like it always does."
I was right. As we started gently talking about the anonymous questions each girl had written and put into a box in the center of the circle, the girls saw that I wasn't there to judge them or tell them what to do, and the tightly crossed arms and averted eyes started to fall away. They started to lean in, and I could tell with each torn little scrap of paper I pulled out, they were hoping their question would be the next one read so they could get the answers they had so desperately and secretly been wanting.
One of the questions broke my heart. It was all I could do to keep the tears from my eyes as I read it aloud to the girls sitting in this now sacred circle. It said: "My mom was just diagnosed with breast cancer, and I'm really scared. Has anyone else been through this, and what can I do to feel better?"
I shared with this anonymous girl, sitting among us, about how I had dealt with the fear, emotions and process of when my beloved mother-in-law and godmother were diagnosed. From the other side of the circle, a girl slowly raised her shaking hand and whispered: "Um...Elizabeth? That was my question." I thanked her for so bravely coming forward and asked the circle of now open, compassionate faces if anyone had any other thoughts or insights that could help her. The girl to her right immediately gave her a huge hug, while the one to the left leaned over and wiped the tears off her face. Before now, these were girls who had ignored each other in the lonely hallways of this massive high school. Then, the floodgates opened and all the girls that had experienced anything similar began sharing their advice and wisdom. The transformation we all felt on the field that day was palpable. Welcome to the world of Ask-Elizabeth!