One Maya Angelou quote that Matthews brings up often – which serves as the epigraph in her memoir – captures the group’s mission and Matthews’ continual message to her students: “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
Working with other women facing cancer, Matthews tried to show them that writing could help make space for themselves and reclaim a bit of joy and power in the face of something so daunting. She sends a similar message to her SCPS students, reminding them that writing allows us all to tell our stories.
“Many students in the BIS program have not written for a long time, and I try to approach writing with great tenderness and open-heartedness, showing them that everyone can write,” Matthews said.
During the first class – held at night and online to accommodate students’ work schedules – Matthews typically shares an urban legend about a little girl who tells her teacher that she is drawing God. When the teacher tells her that no one knows what God looks like, the girl simply says, “Well, now they do.”
“That brazenness, that bravado can get taught out of us,” Matthews said. “I try to give it back to my students. I also tell them that I am like a Sherpa, carrying equipment and knowing where we will camp. My students are the ones who find their voice, and in so finding are going to find a lightness, putting down what they are carrying.”