Melanie DewBerry-Jones

For Melanie DewBerry-Jones, hunches are to be followed?even the
dangerous ones. She was leading a workshop at San Quentin prison
that brought the ideas of personal coaching?a form of professional
help that assists people in living according to their values?inside
the walls. She noticed that one inmate, an ex-airman, was
obsessively tidy, with cropped hair and an ironed shirt. ?My
teaching was about being honest about where you are right now,? she
recalls, so she pulled his shirttail out, unbuttoned a few buttons.
?I told him, ?They kicked you out of the Air Force. You?re in
prison and you?ve got to deal with that.? He looked like he wanted
to kill me.?

DewBerry-Jones, a personal coach who lives near San Francisco,
says ?Many of us tell ourselves lies based on our fears. I try to
coach past the lies, to intuit the real issues.?

She develops her intuition by immersing herself in Native
American spirituality. It?s a family heritage; her father was part
Choctaw. He was also one of the legendary Tuskeegee Airmen, the
pioneer African American pilots whose World War II exploits paved
the way for the desegregation of the Armed Forces. He became a
senior officer in the Air Force, and she grew up in Washington,
D.C.

Run-ins with harsh racism as a young woman left her determined
to reach out to people who were different from herself. She studied
Japanese, Chinese, and Spanish. She planned to be an Episcopal
priest. ?I wanted to do whatever I could to encourage people to act
from love,? she says. Today she fuels that desire with an active
coaching schedule, and has even founded a magazine for personal
coaches and clients (Choice, debuting this fall).

And the too-tidy San Quentin inmate? ?He took it hard,? says
DewBerry-Jones. ?I really wondered if I?d done the right thing.
Then at the end of the sessions, he came up to me and said, ?Thank
you. I don?t like you. But I love you.??

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