Margaret Heffernan: on Courage, Gayla Benefield+The dangers of "willful blindness"

…in Libby, Montana, there’s a rather unusual woman named Gayla Benefield. She always felt a little bit of an outsider, although she’s been there almost all her life, a woman of Russian extraction. She told me when she went to school, she was the only girl who ever chose to do mechanical drawing. Later in life, she got a job going house to house reading utility meters — gas meters, electricity meters. And she was doing the work in the middle of the day, and one thing particularly caught her notice, which was, in the middle of the day she met a lot of men who were at home, middle aged, late middle aged, and a lot of them seemed to be on oxygen tanks. It struck her as strange. Then, a few years later, her father died at the age of 59, five days before he was due to receive his pension. He’d been a miner. She thought he must just have been worn out by the work. But then a few years later, her mother died, and that seemed stranger still, because her mother came from a long line of people who just seemed to live forever. In fact, Gayla’s uncle is still alive to this day, and learning how to waltz. It didn’t make sense that Gayla’s mother should die so young. It was an anomaly, and she kept puzzling over anomalies. And as she did, other ones came to mind.

Read it all; cited by yours truly in the morning sermon.


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