On the long padded benches of McDonald’s on O’Connell Street I quizzed M. about teen culture in the area of Dublin known locally as “town”, more commonly recognised by outsiders as the inner-city. She told me about their pride in fashion, mobile phones and shoes – those blinding, neon Nikes. With articulate grace she spoke about her hopes and dreams. With calm confidence she spoke about her plans of opening her own beauty salon, having her own flat and one day (a good few years from now) her own family.
We sipped our milkshakes as she continued to help me on this little project. She probably didn’t know this, but I couldn’t help but be filled with all sorts of pride for her. Sure, I took in what she was telling me about teen culture but I was secretly distracted by thoughts of what an incredible young woman she has become. I was there since before M.’s first communion. On occasion I was even one of the privileged few that she let babysit her. I was there as she entered her teen years. And now here she was, a beautiful young woman exuding so much courage and hope about reaching whatever dream that she wanted. At one stage she looked over at me and said, “I don’t remember a time in my life when you weren’t around.” I’ve always known welcome in her home. Her mam made sure of that, always making sure that I had all I ever needed. When going to study in Canada she even gave me an Ireland necklace so that I wouldn’t forget where I came from. She has been a true friend all these years.
In our conversation M. proved that she see’s town realistically – the strengths and the challenges. She’s also aware of the stereotypes but they are merely a passing thought that she counts as ridiculous to base life around. She has pride in where she comes from and in her community. She finds her value and worth in who she is and the choices she can make.
M.’s eyes were alight as she graciously answered all my questions over a couple of hours. She has influenced me for the better, reminding me of all that is good in the world. She is a picture of resilience that I hang in the gallery of my soul.