Sunday, August 02, 2015

Finding inspiration in unexpected places

Artwork by Karen, Truth Be Told graduate
Where do I find inspiration to create, to look past my fears and make things happen? The quick and simple answer: In prison.

This past Thursday, I emceed the fall orientation for Truth Be Told​'s Talk to Me Series at a women’s prison in Lockhart, Texas. As usual, the women who walked into the slightly-less-than-sweltering gymnasium to hear about our programs represented all ages, all races. Some seemed introverted; others extroverted. But all the women made it clear by their presence that they were curious about what we had to offer.

Moments that replay in my mind as I think upon the afternoon:
·      En route to the gym, I run into a student from last semester. Soft brown eyes. Easy smile. High five. Not enough time to connect. Small talk. Much left unsaid.
·      One of our volunteer facilitators follows her impulse to pass out notebook paper to all the women in the gym so they can fan themselves.
·      The sea of faces looking back at me as I speak of our organization and the classes we offer. I see nods of encouragement. Eagerness. Furrowed brows. Pleasant smiles. There’s a very young woman who cannot keep her eyes open. She is struggling to focus and losing the battle. I want to know the rest of her story, but I have a program to lead.

What really makes an impression on me, however, are the three women from last semester who show up to retake one of our classes. They each share their reasons for repeating, but the common denominator is their determination to befriend fears and doubts, believe in their self-worth and honor their full potential as human beings.

As I sit with these women, I recall their stories. Two of them have lived experiences that would threaten my sanity. But here they are, sitting in plastic chairs in a gymnasium with no A/C, their bodies leaning into the conversation, their eyes wide open, their voices humble and earnest. They are ready to dive deeper. To explore. To face it all.

To make it happen.