Hear Me Roar
August 2022 Issue
Photography by T.R. Love, T.R. Media World
Hometown: Hilton Head, since 1994
Family: Husband, Joe; Children, Chris, Robin, Emily, Ben, plus 6 grandkids
Passion: Cultivating hidden potential
What is something you have done that you never thought you would do?
I never thought I’d be spending Wednesdays in prison mentoring and teaching convicted male felons, that’s for sure!
What were the biggest lessons you took from your experiences?
Offering personal development training to an inmate is like handing them a steak dinner. Just because a lesson is being taught, doesn’t mean it’s being caught. However, when a lesson comes straight from the Holy Spirit, it’s almost impossible to ignore. It’s those transformational moments I live for. Showing up and giving consistent, compassionate attention to individuals who are starving for some positive discrimination has the potential to change a person’s mental, emotional, and spiritual world. It has mine.
Tell us about your time volunteering at prison? What did you teach?
In the mornings I taught personal development classes to 12 men in scarcely-equipped dorm classrooms. BEST SELF: Be You Only Better and Why Try for Corrections were basically life coaching and resiliency training. I also facilitated a book club, as well as a class for stress management called Coloring Therapy for the Soul. Then, in the afternoons, I attended Ridgeland Toastmasters (in the prison) as both a member and mentor.
Bad decisions make great stories, what was the most
touching or dramatic story you can share?
You mean when I cried like a baby and almost started a stampede in prison? I invited a fellow Toastmaster to sit in on a class. “If he stays, I’m outta here!” which ignited the bullies and started a stampede for the door. I cried because Mr. Jones left without a fuss. A few weeks before, Mr. Jones, a slightly brain-damaged underdog who had been bullied his entire life, received a standing ovation for his “Ice Breaker” (first) speech. A few minutes before “Chernobyl”, we were about to discuss how our “best selves” should handle emotional interactions. No better drama (or life lesson) than having to handle an emotional, middle-aged, prison volunteer in distress.
How about the funniest?
“Table Topics” in Toastmasters is about impromptu speaking. Mr. Jones was asked, “What steps would you take to save a person who is choking?” To which he replied, “I would tell him about my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” We could never predict what Mr. Jones was going to say but it was always worth waiting for.
Most women look forward to book club for fellowship and wine! Tell us about book club with 12 male felons. What are some of the books your club read?
The favorite selection at both Allendale and Ridgeland prisons was the book I coauthored and published, TOTAL PARDON: An Extraordinary Love Story by Wil and Linda Yazzie. It’s about Wil, a Navajo repeat offender who marries his pen pal, Linda, an innocent church lady from Ohio. It’s the true story of how government boarding schools changed a boy into an alcoholic and love changed an alcoholic into a minister. We also read Same Kind of Different as Me by Denver Moore, Lynn Vincent and Ron Hall, as well as Tattoos on the Heart by Gregory Boyle. For inmates, books are prized possessions. Our meetings became an oasis of safety, a respite from an otherwise unwelcoming environment. Book club was a springboard for frank discussions about faith, fortitude and friendship, as well as loss, anger, redemptions and loneliness.
What surprised you most in working with male prisoners?
I’ve never been scared. Respect and appreciation prevailed throughout every visit. I’ve been fortunate to have witnessed the power of kindness at work. I feel gluttonous. I often wish others could see how much prison volunteers are appreciated and valued. It would be easy to assume prisoners are evil, but what isn’t easy is choosing to remember that often, unimaginable circumstances caused them to be incarcerated.
In working closely with these guys for years, did you see or sense a pattern?
Childhood is the prime season for planting seeds of greatness or disgrace. Unfortunately, it became clear early on that most inmates came from fatherless and dysfunctional homes. Boredom precedes bad choices, which often led to addiction and criminal behavior.
What was your inspiration to turn from helping inmates to helping kids?
In February 2020, the institutions stopped allowing visitors. I was frustrated sitting on the sidelines waiting for the all-clear, so I rebooted my Life Coaching for Kids business so I could put my social and emotional learning lessons to good use. In extreme cases, some might call what I do “incarceration prevention.” I don’t say it out loud. I just think it.
What do you expect children to receive from life coaching?
Life coaching is normally associated with adults who want support to realize their full potential. Life coaching for kids provides a safe place to nurture a child’s innate journey to greatness. Empowering children with skills to build competencies in all areas of their lives to become focused self-leaders, how can that not be relevant in this day and age?
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
When our son was in third grade, his teacher put on the board: SOMEWHERE OUT THERE IS…and asked the students to fill in the blank. He wrote…SOMEONE CALLING MY NAME. I took that and ran with it because I’m the only me there is, which compels me to show up when and where I’m needed, even if it’s in a prison.
What would you love to be remembered for?
Eradicating hopelessness through consistent, compassionate connections and bringing prodigals home to Jesus, who has plans to prosper them, not to harm them.
What are you currently roaring about?
People—especially children—start to heal the moment they feel heard.
Books—Biography or Fiction: Summer is for fiction. Full stop, as they say.
Movies—Romantic Comedy or Action-Adventure: ROM COM seeing as I’ve written one.
Read Minds or See the Future: I’m intuitive, so I got the first one.
Chips or Ice Cream: Breyers Extra Creamy Vanilla, there’s no going back.
Talk or Text: Talk
Movie or Game Night: Game night, Bridge with my three sisters
Dance or Sing: Dance, Jerusalema Dance Challenge anyone?
If not a teacher, then what? Artist
Joke or story: One liners only, stories are my thang!