I am blessed…since the day I was born. 

I arrived in this world on January 24, 1953, to the loving arms of my parents, C.B. and Lillian Stoltz. I was my parents first born and my father celebrated my birth with as much enthusiasm as he would have had for a son. There was no disappointment in the fact that I was a girl, rather than a boy. I was his child, and that was all that mattered. In many other cultures around the world, there is less joy in a daughter’s birth. Sons are valued more and their birth is cause for much celebration. The birth of all children, regardless of their gender, is cause for celebration, and all children deserve to feel as if they are welcomed and wanted, one as much as the other.

I am blessed. I was born into a Christian family and raised in a free society where little girls run and play, just as little boys do. I grew up playing sports, riding bikes, climbing trees, going swimming with my friends, having sleepovers, and doing a host of other things in which I had the freedom to participate and enjoy. My childhood was long and happy, extending well into my teenage years. In many other cultures, little girls do not possess these simple joys of childhood, and what childhood they have is short lived.

I am blessed. At the age of twenty, I married a wonderful man. His name is Terry and we have been married for many years. He is my soul mate and the love of my life. In accordance with our Christian tradition, my father gave me away in marriage, but the decision to marry and to whom I was to marry was mine, and mine alone.

I am blessed. I am free to come and go as I please, drive a car, vote, pursue my interest in photography, go to school, play my favorite sport (ice hockey), go for a girl’s night out, and all with the love and support of my husband.

I was twenty when I married, but in some countries and cultures, the innocence of childhood is canceled at an age that many of us find disturbing and wrong. Girls who are thirteen and younger are given in marriage before their minds and little bodies have had a chance to mature. Guns are put into the hands of boys at the ages of twelve and sometimes even younger, and told that they are soldiers who are to fight and die as men. These children have been dispossessed of their childhood by the societies in which they live.

On April 10, 2010, I read a news article regarding a thirteen-year-old Yemeni girl named Elham Assi, and I wept. Her mother found her drifting in and out of consciousness from being tied down and raped by her new husband. Her tiny organs could not handle the savagery and stress placed upon them. The last few hours of her short little life were spent in fear, pain, and torment. I can only imagine her anguish. She died on April 2, 2010, with her mother at her side. She was a little girl whom I did not know, but the story of her death tugs at my heart. I can only pray for an end to the ignorance that perpetuates the mindset of a society that allows such practices.

I am reminded of my blessings and I am thankful,

Linda S. Montgomery

April 3, 2010

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