I always wanted to be brave, but I lacked the confidence. Mama and I moved around a lot when I was growing up, so I was often the new kid on the block. I was shy and awkward, almost always the tallest girl in the class and the one with the thickest glasses. If that were not enough to make me a target of class bullies, my hair was “stringy,” as Grandmama called it, and my unstylish hair went well with my unstylish outfits made by her.
It was my sense of mission that gave me courage, or at least the courage to hope that I would be courageous if the need arose. A transformative moment was when I watched a TV movie in 1983 called “Choices of the Heart.” The movie was about Jean Donovan, an American lay missionary who at the age of 27 was raped and murdered, with three nuns, by a Salvadoran death squad. Jean had traveled to El Salvador in 1977 to serve the poor. She stayed for three years despite the increased danger that drove others out of the war-torn country.
I was greatly affected by the dedication and courage of Jean Donovan to stand by the poor in the face of torture and death. I wondered if I would have stayed. Would I have even gone?
In seminary, my favorite classes were those about social justice, race and religion, and liberation theology. I dreamed of having the opportunity to serve the poor in Central America or in some inner city. I wondered if all the great social movements were over, and I had missed them.