Honoring Neville


As we arrived at Donovan prison today, our TEDx guys were clearly carrying the burden of the loss of their friend, Neville, who passed away on Sunday of a sudden heart attack. We started our TEDx planning time together by creating space for Neville’s memory, anything anyone wanted to share and simple acknowledgement of the pain of grief. Many of our guys knew him well: the first to get up and going in the morning, the last to head back to his cell is the evening. The men spoke about his kindness and the good friend he had been so many of them.

After sharing memories, we all maintained a minute of silence during which I invited each of us to “pray, meditate, grieve, celebrate, express gratitude and sadness… and, for those of us who feel less impacted by this loss, I invite you to hold space and send loving support for those who are impacted.” The men did just that.

Even we, coming from the outside with no formal reason to know Neville, have been impacted by his presence and his care.  Before moving to a bigger space when our team size doubled, Neville greeted us each Tuesday with his large smile. He would bring an additional “comfortable” chair because, as he said, “plastic chairs are for those of us who committed bad actions.” He would make sure our meeting room was absolutely spotless and, before leaving, he would squirt a few sprays of his lemon air freshener to liven up the air.

What seemingly inconsequential actions. And yet, each time our space would receive the squirts of that artificial lemon smell, Mark and I would look at each other and smile. We felt welcomed and cared for.

The power of these seemingly inconsequential actions is such a reminder of the power of each and every one of our actions. We simply never know which action may have the most profound impact on another: from a hug, to a smile, to providing a sandwich, to listening with the heart, to even helping someone out with a work problem. I invited the guys to pay attention to their small actions this week. And to receive the magical gift of the small actions done onto them.

I invite each of us outside prison to do the same.