By Kathleen Littlepage, Executive Director
Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
I always understood that quote to mean that if you want the world to be more peaceful, start by cultivating your inner peace. I have come to understand that saying in another way. I suspect that Gandhi knew something that I have discovered through my work with Truth Be Told — that when you work towards change, that work changes you. You will be the change.
For fifteen years, volunteers have facilitated all of our programs. Recently, a wise woman who started several nonprofits told me that she believes having all volunteer facilitators ensures a level of passion in our programs. For a lot of us, that passion or commitment is engendered by how much we learn from being with incarcerated women, how much we are changed.
A few years ago, Katie Ford, one of our long-time dedicated facilitators, spoke at a fundraiser about how working with the women in prison altered the course of her life. A guest at the event became involved with Truth Be Told and a donor because he looks for organizations that promote personal growth for the people doing the work while they also serve a cause.
Even after years of facilitating, the insights of women in my classes surprise me and stretch my perspective on topics I thought I had exhausted. Training new facilitators also makes me see through “fresh eyes”. Once when I was leaving the jail with a new volunteer, she asked, “Do you ever tell people how much fun it is to do these classes?” I laughed because I’ve thought it often but never expressed it that way — probably anticipating the looks I would get.
Two of our facilitators-in-training created personal fundraising pages for Amplify Austin that express how this work has affected them. Please consider supporting this work that serves all of us by donating to one of them.
Lauren King is co-facilitating Talk To Me – Circle at the GEO Lockhart Unit. Lauren wrote:
The Truth Hurts. I always took this sentence to mean that the truth can sting on a very superficial level. After months of volunteering at Truth Be Told it means the headache I get after two hours of difficult, emotionally draining activities. It’s the full body ache I get the next day that I call my ‘emotional hangover’. It’s the pain I see in women’s eyes from years of living with truths they could never say because it wasn’t acceptable. It’s the silence of abuse and the shame of living in hiding. The truth can hurt to hear, sure. But truth does the most damage to lives when it is never spoken.
Every week I go to prison knowing it will be intensely emotional and powerful to hear women tell their story, yet I leave staggered by how extremely powerful it is. I’m grateful for every headache and body ache, because I get to witness and be a part of the very human experience of connection. I get to watch as that connection transforms women’s lives. It’s an experience that changes my life just as much as the women in prison. Best of all, I leave with hope and a better understanding of forgiveness and a full picture of what compassion truly is.
Rebecca Deering co-facilitates a weekly class at the Travis County Jail in Del Valle. She writes:
A year and a half ago, I was desperate to change my life, the way I felt about myself and where I fit in the world. I set out on a journey that required me to see the hard truth about my life, and pushed me to take the steps to regain my mental freedom. Eventually, I was ready to share the idea that I am the one that can bring a positive change in my life by seeking the truth and using simple tools to live a better life.
When we sit down with the women at the Del Valle correctional facility, we present a topic and then we discuss: How can this particular tool, be it love, compassion, or forgiveness, help you today? How will it help you when you go home? How will this tool make your life a bit easier, a bit more peaceful, a bit more joyful?
Please help me help “my ladies” by supporting my work facilitating on behalf of Truth Be Told. I so look forward to seeing them every week. They encourage me to continue my journey while they begin theirs. This program is one of love, of hope, of truth, of beauty, and the possibility of a better life. Please donate today so that I may continue to empower myself and help these women empower themselves.