Commitment: Three Lessons from a 12 Year Old Girl

This is Rowan, my sister, and the quintessential pre-teen girl.

She relentlessly terrorizes her cat, enjoys spending time with her friends (and only her friends), and has a very definite opinion on how one should cross the road.

She is obsessed with the boy band Why Don’t We, conspiracy theories, and Starbucks refreshers.

She stays up too late, loves playing rugby and dislikes walking to school.

She can always find something wrong with a couch, plucks her unibrow until she has two lopsided eyebrows, and has a 2 and a half feet of thick brown hair which she never brushes (on the basis that it makes it more tangled).

She is easy going, funny and painfully stubborn — “determined” as she likes to say.

She is honest, exacting, and sometimes incredibly observant.

All of these traits — the advantageous with the undesirable — play a part in making Rowan who she is.

However, the one quality that I believe defines her is her extraordinary ability to commit.

The Butterfly Project

Since his diagnosis, our Grandfather has developed a tremor in his right hand — a symptom which prevents him from doing simple everyday tasks we often take for granted, including writing his name, brushing his teeth and even zipping up his jacket.

Even though we were young, both Rowan and I could see the effects this disease was having on him. In 2015, when Rowan was in second grade, she was moved to begin spreading awareness for Parkinson’s disease in her elementary school.

Around the same time, I had received a Rainbow Loom kit as a gift, and after much persuasion, the kind of arguing only two sisters can have, and some parental interference (thanks mom), she managed to wrest it’s ownership!

So, over the course of that April, Rowan made 200 rainbow loom bracelets each bearing a butterfly — a symbol of Parkinson’s disease. She then distributed them to the students of her elementary school, thus beginning her continuing effort to raise awareness and funds for Parkinson’s Disease research — an initiative she calls “The Butterfly Project”.

The Butterfly Project 2015

No other endeavour is a better demonstration of Rowan’s ability to commit to something. From this sustained process, Rowan says she has learned three things about commitment.

Lesson 1: Total commitment means going all in.

After doing this for about 2 weeks, she had made a couple hundred beautiful and unique bracelets, and her effort really showed.

Lesson 2: Tirelessly seek the opinions of others

Her asking for input — if in excess- lead to people appreciating the quality of the tokens she made. She did keychains in 2016, magnets in 2017, bookmarks in 2018 and more keychains in 2019.

Various Years of The Butterfly Project

Additionally, at the suggestion of our Dad, she emailed the Parkinson’s Research Consortium at the Ottawa Hospital, and got a booth at the annual Lap the Gats bike race that is held in the Gatineau Park in support of Parkinson’s Research.

Lesson 3: Don’t be satisfied

Rowan and her friend Maddie Petit in front of Rowan’s butterfly mural at the Victory Summit 2019

Next June, our family will be hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro for Rowan’s initiative to raise funds for Parkinson’s research. Her goal is to raise $1 for every foot that the both of us ascend, so about $40,000 — fingers crossed we both make it to the top!

Rowan’s ability to commit, specifically these 3 lessons, have enabled her to take a modest and well intentioned idea and turn it into a pretty inspiring project. It has pushed her to work hard, think, and most importantly, contribute to a cause that she intrinsically values.

Activator at The Knowledge Society | A Sandwich or Two Founder

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