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At the Humanist Chaplaincy at Tufts, we hope to foster a comfortable environment for people to engage in honest discussions around the challenges in their lives, and to explore how people outside traditional religion approach questions that many faith traditions engage regularly. Our day to day lives, on campus and off, can be challenging just as they are exciting, but we don’t always have a structured hour in the week to sit down and reflect on the way we’ve grown, and the lessons we can learn from the experiences of others.

At small group reflections, the Humanist in Residence facilitates an open, respectful, and confidential conversation around a chosen theme that concerns and informs many of our choices and experiences in our life journey. The conversation is rooted in a text (or other piece of culture) written from a Humanist perspective that engages the theme, and from there will be open to the perspectives and experiences of everyone present in the group. Those present are encouraged to bring pieces of culture that inspire their own values on the theme, including and especially those from other faith traditions.

After we explored “fearlessness in caregiving” last week, the upcoming small group reflection will explore fear and courage more generally–how do we confront fear, to what do we gravitate when we’re afraid, and when is it most important that we face our fears–led through a passage from Maya Angelou. It will be on Monday, October 12th, at 9pm in the Interfaith Center downstairs meeting room. Small group reflections are open to all members of the Tufts community, irrespective of anyone’s belief background. Light refreshments will be served!


Maya Angelou inspired generations with her poetry, her novels, and her activism throughout the latter half of the 20th century and into the 21st. Born in St. Louis, she worked as a journalist and organizer across the world–from 60s Civil Rights in America to the decolonization of Egypt–before settling in North Carolina as a professor at Wake Forest University. Her 1969 autobiography I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings revolutionized the genre of memoir in its literary style, and the recording of her poetry reading at the Clinton inauguration won a Grammy award.

Angelou never identified as a Humanist–she said her faith gave her inspiration to action: “When I was asked to do something good, I often say yes, I’ll try, yes, I’ll do my best. And part of that is believing, if God loves me, if God made everything from leaves to seals and oak trees, then what is it I can’t do?” The quotes which we’ll read of hers, however, take on the ideas of fear and courage as they impact our lives in this world and as we might confront them without looking to something beyond ourselves for support. They’re taken from interviews she’s given about her inspiring life’s work. She said:

What is a fear of living? It’s being preeminently afraid of dying. It is not doing what you came here to do, out of timidity and spinelessness. The antidote is to take full responsibility for yourself – for the time you take up and the space you occupy. If you don’t know what you’re here to do, then just do some good.

Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.

Angelou, Maya. Interview: Academy of Achievement, a Living History. 22 January 1997.