Hidden Lives of Courage

In her book, Becoming Wise, Krista Tippett expresses an important truth: “Our world is abundant with quiet, hidden lives of beauty and courage and goodness. There are millions of people at any given moment, young and old, giving themselves over to service, risking hope, and all the while ennobling us all. To take such goodness in and let it matter—to let it define our take on reality as much as headlines of violence—is a choice we can make to live by the light in the darkness, to be brave and free. Taking in the good, whenever and wherever we find it, gives us new eyes for seeing and living.”

Yesterday, I had a one-on-visit with a woman in solitary confinement. I sat in the visiting room, she sat in an small concrete space. We spoke via phone and video camera. I begin all sessions with a meditation. In handcuffs, she adjusted the phone so it was held by her chin and shoulder. This was no ordinary meditation. Still, she closed her eyes, listened to my voice, and attended inward.

She’s one of the quiet, hidden lives of beauty and courage. She’s not angry, as she knows it’s not helpful. She does walking meditation in her cell. She makes plans for her re-entry—going back to school, supporting her kids, and beginning anew. In solitary for 60 days, she’s not allowed to talk on the phone, even to her children, and they’re not told why. She’s heartbroken. I asked her to tell me about each of her kids. Through both tears and laughter, she described them all.

I asked what she says to them: That she loves them, that they’re beautiful and awesome, that she’s proud of them. I suggested she say those phrases as loving-kindness practice while she’s in seg. Then I told her how much she inspires me: practicing patience, wisdom, and love in the harshest conditions. We sat together (apart yet in community) and took in the good.

Then I interacted with another quiet life of goodness: the correctional officer who greets me with kindness each week. If there’s a glitch in the system, he helps me find inmates, making calls that aren’t required of him. He serves in a firm yet generous way.

As I drove home in the ice storm, I passed a large salt truck. Another service worker, driving slowly, spreading salt and sand, trying to keep people safe. A sea of cars raced past the truck, perhaps annoyed at the inconvenience. Yet this is another hidden life of courage. They're all around us—ordinary people doing extraordinary things. There’s as much (and more) goodness as violence in the world. We just need to slow down, pay attention, and open our hearts.

[This post is part of my Truth Tuesday series on Facebook.]