Hidden Figures

Yesterday is gone, but clips from the day have traveled into the future with me. Between loads of laundry and two cups of Columbian coffee, my husband and I slipped away for a few hours to grab lunch and a matinee. We saw Hidden Figures — though most of the world had already seen it. If you haven’t, don’t wait any longer, it’s definitely worth your time and money.

I knew I wanted to see it ever since I discovered that the three ladies about whom this story is told are my Sorors — sisters in service to Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. I wanted to read the book first though, but time just didn’t permit. What I expected to see was an inspiring story — one that would prompt me to pursue my dreams now rather than later. In that regard, it surpassed my expectations. What I didn’t expect was the range of emotions I felt while watching. I felt sad and angry when I saw the “Colored” signs posted on restrooms and water fountains. I felt relieved and vindicated when the manager tore down the “Colored” sign from the ladies’ restroom and peeled the “Colored” label from the coffee pot. My heart leapt with joy when the widowed main character found love again. I felt angry and ashamed during the scene at the public library.

If I could sum up this story in a poem, it would be Mother to Son by Langston Hughes because life was far from easy for these women. In my opinion, things haven’t changed that much. The looks, the jeers, the assumptions, the loathing, and the comparisons have traveled to the future. They didn’t remain in the 60s. Unless you’ve lived it, you’ll never understand how it feels. And when you defend yourself, you’re labeled as angry, militant, or hostile.

I’m thankful that I learned to go high when others go low long before Michelle Obama mentioned using that strategy. What I rely on are my personal hidden figures — the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit to help me bridle my tongue when necessary, smile instead of scream, walk away instead of laying hands, and pray for better days and better ways to tolerate the intolerable. Life for many ain’t been no crystal stair, but we should look to those who have walked this road before us.

Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. ~Hebrews 13:7

We all play a part in the lives of those who are watching us. As educators, we have the power to determine the stories our students tell when they get home. We have the power to inspire them to do great things. My third grade teacher told me I was smart, and I never forgot that. She recommended me for a summer program at the university I eventually attended years later. I  took creative writing classes for two summers while in elementary school, and I met kids from other schools who also loved to write. I credit her — Mrs. LeBlanc for seeing something in me then that brings me so much joy now. She was a hidden figure for me — building my confidence all those years ago. She also gave me Cs in conduct, and I think she was generous in doing so. I talked too much back then, but she used it to her advantage by asking me to be her helper instead of squashing my need to chit chat.

We are who we are because of all the wonderful hidden figures who worked behind the scenes to make our launch into adulthood a successful one. Who are your hidden figures? Scroll down to the comments, and give them a shout out.

Lord, thank you for all those who have played a pivotal role in our lives. Whether they are with us ’til the end or only make a few cameo appearances, bless them for speaking the word of God to us and allowing us to imitate their faith. May their latter be far greater than their former years as a reward for their service to all whom they’ve touched. May blessings abound! <3


13 Thoughts

  1. There were many people who helped shape me — family, teachers in Sunday School, and public school teachers. One high school English teacher entered me in a writing contest. She never said a word about liking my writing or thinking I was good in English class. It wasn’t until I began to think of myself as a writer that I remembered she chose me to represent the school. It gives me a boost now every time I think of it.

  2. I saw the movie this past Thursday and loved it. Your post is a reminder to remember those who played a part, however small, in whatever success we may have in this life. Thank you!

  3. Awesome post M. The movie was inspiring but also took me through a roller coaster of emotions. I love that-my Hidden Figures are God, His Son and His Holy Spirit! There were so many hidden figures who helped to shape me as well, but my HS writing teacher, Mrs. Mosco, and my AP US History teacher Mr. Dilorenzo stand out in my life as well as my maternal grandmother. They each saw something in me that I never knew and I am grateful for them.

  4. Thanks for this inspirational post, Michelle. I look forward to taking my daughters to see this movie. My hidden figures include some wonderful teachers who saw something in me that I didn’t, most especially my high school English teacher, Mrs. Wickstrom. We still keep in touch. My friends, my parents, my husband, and my children all play a role as hidden figures as they teach me so much. I am blessed.

  5. I love this post and it is making me want to see the movie before the Oscars. They had a similar storyline on the TV show Timeless but it was only a snippet. While my parents stopped going to church when I was about 7 (they have passed now and I never found out why), they did instill in me a “colour blindness” when it came to people. We grew up with several families of different cultures and it never occurred to me that they were different. I loved getting to know the Asian, Jewish, and Punjabi cultures as well as others. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized this wasn’t the norm. I found my own faith in my late twenties and feel sad that there are still cultural barriers in the world.

    1. I’m sorry to hear that your parents have passed, but I’m happy to hear that you found your faith in your 20s like many of us did. Sounds like your folks had already built a strong foundation, and that’s admirable. People leave the church for a lot of reasons. Sometimes church folks make you feel “less than,” and that just comes from a place of insecurity (I think). The key to finding your place in life is knowing that you’re doing what’s right for those who need you most and can never repay you. Thanks for reading, Lydia. Blessings to you, Sister. <3

  6. Sometimes church folks make you feel “less than,” and that just comes from a place of insecurity (I think). My hidden figures include some wonderful teachers who saw something in me that I didn’t, most especially my high school English teacher, Mrs. Wickstrom.

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