In early 2013, the Rev. Theresa S. Thames stumbled upon a Facebook page titled “GirlTrek: Healthy Black Women and Girls.”
“It saved my life,” she said.
Thames, then 33, was dangerously overweight and fighting depression. She sent the site her contact information and received an email from Vanessa Garrison, co-founder of GirlTrek, an organization that inspires black women to change their lives and communities by walking. Garrison learned that Thames was a pastor and invited her to lead a prayer at an event in Washington commemorating the 100th anniversary of Harriet Tubman’s death.
“I was out there leading a prayer for this walking event in my 447-pound body and I felt like a fraud,” said Thames, who is the associate dean of religious life and the chapel at Princeton University. But she also found herself stirred by the spirit of the event.
“It wasn’t about looking good or weight loss or fitting into a certain type of clothing,” she recalled. “It wasn’t, ‘Hey, you fat person, you need to do this or you’re going to die.’ It was, ‘I love you and I want you to love yourself enough to invest in 30 minutes a day, to walk yourself to freedom like Harriet Tubman did.’ And that spoke deeply for me because my life work is showing up for other people, but I wasn’t showing up for myself.”