What Molly Burke taught me…

One of my favourite speakers at WeDay, there to inspire kids to stand up and “use their voices,” was Molly Burke.

At four, Molly was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, and by 14, she was completely blind. Molly tells of a time where kids had little understanding of what was going on with her…where the grade 8 challenges, difficult for just about anyone, were that much more enhanced with her own personal struggles.

Her story is one that will bring you to your knees.

She was bullied.

Young girls didn’t understand what was going on with her or how to begin to be her friend…so they walked away.

One day, they asked Molly if she’d like to walk home from school with them and against her better judgement…she went. She wanted them to like her. Wanted to fit in.

At the time, Molly had a sprained ankle and walked with crutches, hobbling along beside her “friends.” It wasn’t long before she knew she was in danger. They were heading through the woods. Branches were coming at her. Roots encircled her feet and crutches made it difficult to walk, let alone hobble, when all of a sudden…she fell.

They laughed.

The took her crutches and ran away leaving Molly to fend for herself.

As she tried to get up, the weight of her body buckled her ankle and she fell to the ground again.

When telling her story among the 8,000 WeDay participants, quietly listening, Molly asked them to think…to try to put themselves in her shoes as she lay on the ground.

And the lights went out.

It was then, only in that moment, did Molly reveal to the audience…she was completely blind.

You could hear the pin drop as every single person in that room made a personal vow in their minds to stand up to bullying. To be the voice for those whose voices have been silenced.

Her lesson…one of courage and strength, will be remembered.

I had the glorious opportunity of spending a bit of time with this brave young woman and can honestly tell you, she was an absolute treasure and joy to be around.

Molly arrived in the media room with her sweet dog, Gypsy…taking a moment to gather herself together as Gypsy tried to inch her way towards a spec of food on the floor. When I began asking her questions…she looked directly at me.

In my head, as I continued to chat to this vivacious young woman, I’m thinking, “maybe she can see a little…maybe shadows or movement.” Molly, her tiny 5ft frame and delicate features…with a smile on her face that made you feel completely at ease from the moment you met her…was completely focused on me.

But no, though you’d never be able to tell with the exception of her guide dog…and I’m not entirely sure what I’d be looking for anyway…Molly is completely blind.

We talked about her story and I asked her about her mom. I was curious about the relationship they had…how her family supported her in her journey…how they support her today as she travels around the world. Molly spoke of her mother’s communication…how she “knows what hat to wear” at any given time whether it was “mom, friend or sister.” She talked about how her mother let her live the life she wanted to live but every now and then…snuck a little lesson in…as momma’s do.

Molly gave an example about how, during a difficult time in her life, her mother had a discussion with her about forgiveness….explaining to her daughter that you can’t have a “clear heart” until you learn to forgive…until you find the courage to “let it go.”

This struck a chord with me as you might recall, this summer, I followed the path down the “forgiveness road” to try to get through my own personal pain. Forgiveness, was the last step to the other side…the hardest step of all.

So, being quite knowledgeable on this topic I boldly declared, “so then, forgiveness was the key to it all?”

And was surprised at her answer of, “no.”

Until she explained.

Forgiveness helped. It was an important step and it made Molly reach the point where she could finally move forward. However, the key to the entire journey, was “hope.” Molly never lost hope in people…in who she was or what she wanted for herself. Despite everything she’d been through…it was Hope that pulled her through.

And she was absolutely right.

When I reflect on what I’ve been through…it was Hope that pulled me through. While I fought the process of grieving, as one change after the next hit me, as I moved forward and finally reached the point where I could forgive…despite everything I’d been through and as heartbroken as I was…I’d never lost Hope.

It took an incredibly beautiful, brilliant, lovely young woman…who just happens to be blind…to allow me to see.

Hope was the key.

It was in me all along.


Thank you Telus for inviting me to share in this truly wonderful event. I look forward to WeDay returning in 2014…and encourage all of our youth to get involved. To make a difference. To stand up for what they believe in. 

2 Replies to “What Molly Burke taught me…”

  1. I had the chance to hang out with Molly in Montreal and she is an incredible human being. I will be forever grateful for that opportunity 😀