Dear Ones –

I have dear friend and neighbor here in Frenchtown, NJ named Catherine Lent, who is a gifted artist, teacher, and also a mom. A few months ago, she was hit with an inspired idea — to launch a club for local girls between the ages of 12 and 16 (or so; some younger and older sibling drop by at times.) She decided to call it THE REAL GIRLS, and to create an environment in which girls at their most expansive (and sometimes explosive) age could gather once a week to talk EVERYTHING, to listen to inspiring speakers, to make art, to play games, to take field trips, to think about their purpose and possibilities in life, to figure out how to combat bullying and body-image struggles, to do community service — in short, to do everything but sit inside in front of a screen, either actively texting or passively receiving some form of packaged "culture".

It's awesome. The girls are fantastic — drawn from three schools across the community — and Catherine is great with them. (One rule I love: at REAL GIRLS, you can't ever be caught sitting next to your best friend, or Catherine will separate you and make you sit with a girl you've never spoken to before — the better to break up cliques and to teach inclusion and compassion.)

Last week, I visited the REAL GIRLS, and spoke to the girls about creativity — trying to pass along a message to them about how to become a maker in life, rather than a mere consumer. They listened almost vibrationally, is the best way I can put it — radiating so much attention, intelligence, and grace.

I think this is a wonderful model for communities everywhere — a safe and generative way for girls to join forces, rather than to become rivals, and to collectively solve the mysteries of their own adolescence. Wish I'd had such a thing when I was growing up!

Since starting REAL GIRLS, Catherine has heard from people all over the country, saying, "We should do this in my town!" My favorite exchange, though, was with a mother in Minnesota who demanded of Catherine, "Why don't you have a chapter of REAL GIRLS in Minnesota, for my daughter?" To which Catherine replied, "Because YOU'RE in Minnesota, my dear. Start one yourself!"

So do it, folks! Start a REAL GIRLS club in your town! You'd be amazed how hungry these kids are for this sort of uplifting engagement and honest exchange.

And here's a link to Catherine's Facebook page, and a recent posting about the club:

And here's a photo of me with the realest, coolest, most wonderful girls you ever saw. (Beside me, you will see a giant origami orb, which the girls made together, called THE ORB OF SISTERHOOD — covered with inspiring messages, and all folded up with their essential goodness.)


via Elizabeth Gilbert’s Facebook Wall