Love is Not Hard to Find

She wore a baggy purple shirt over baggy purple sweat pants. Her hair was chopped short and her body was padded with a layer of soft flesh that bore tribute to the starchy diet of incarceration. She had her arms folded across her lap, her gaze fixed on the floor in front of her, and she was almost imperceptibly rocking to a rhythm that only she could hear.

She was maybe sixteen years old.

I can’t use her real name here. Let’s call her Krissy. I have no idea how she came to be locked up. It is not a question we ever ask. We can safely assume that at some point in her short life everything just spun out of control, to the point that it no longer worked for her to be out in the world.

Kitty Donohoe and I were at the Adrian Girls Training School in Adrian, Michigan conducting a Lost Voices roots music workshop with Krissy and eight other incarcerated teenage girls. The idea was to help them turn some of their personal poetry into folk and blues music, and to work together to write some music as a collaborative group.

Krissy’s speech was slightly impaired. When we eventually got her to look up from the floor, she announced that she was “… not too good with words. Not like those smart girls. Not like those pretty girls.” She was fairly certain that Kitty and I would never be interested in what she had to say, an assumption based on the fact that not many people in her life ever had been.

So we encouraged her, but we told her that she didn’t have to do anything she didn’t want to do. As time went on she contributed to the group song, “The ATS Blues.” And she listened supportively to the work of the other girls.

One day when Kitty and I arrived at the workshop, just about every square inch of Krissy that wasn’t covered by baggy purple shirt and sweat pants was covered with bright red scabs. She didn’t mention it, so neither did we. After the session the Staff member from her cottage told us that over the previous weekend Krissy had rubbed most of her skin off on a piece of carpet.

A couple of weeks later Krissy was mostly healed up – at least visibly. She smiled at the floor as she handed me a creased piece of lined paper and said, “I wrote this poem.” I stopped her before she could go on to say that it was probably not very good.

Here’s Krissy’s poem, after a few tweaks we helped her make so it would fit a little better with the music Kitty and I wrote for it:

Love Is Not Hard To Find

You can find it in the midnight sky
In the music of a baby’s cry
Love is not hard to find
You can find it in a quiet place
In the beauty of a friendly face
Love is not hard to find

You can find it in the wildest storm
Or when you’re sitting safe and warm
Love is not hard to find
You can find it in a tender song
Or when you know where you belong
Love is not hard to find

You can hear it on a city street
In winter cold or summer heat
Love is not hard to find
You can find it big, you can find it small
Find it anyplace at all
Love is not hard to find
Love is not hard to find.

We put Krissy’s song to a sort of Calypso tempo with a bright melody to match. When she first heard her words carried on the wings of Kitty’s incredible voice, she was amazed. When we told her we were going to use her song as the grand finale of the kids’ performance at the end of the workshop, she was thrilled. And when she heard the ovation it earned she was overwhelmed.

But the very best moment was just after the show ended, when we were all standing around the stage basking in the afterglow. I caught the sound of a group of the other girls from the institution, who had come to watch, singing and clapping time as they filed out of the auditorium.

I looked at Krissy and said, “Hey. Hear that?” She tuned her ears to the sound of those other girls – those smart girls, those pretty girls. Then she turned back to me with a look that made everything I have ever done for Lost Voices worth it, ten times over, bathing me in the most beautiful smile I have ever seen.

Those girls were singing:

Love is not hard to find, Love is not hard to find, Love is not hard to fiiiiinnnd!