Life In Prison

What I Value Most

My room mate asked me if there was one thing that I could change in myself right now what would it be? I told her, “Pride! I think pride is my biggest weakness.” Humility has become all the more desirable to me here.  Many of the problems we face here could be solved with a little bit of humility. After thinking about it for a few minutes I said: “Taking responsibility for my thoughts, actions, and responses is also extremely important to me.” If I don’t take responsibility for my thoughts, and how I respond to what’s happening to me, I become a victim. If I become a victim then I give all my power away. Responsibility has given me freedom here, maybe more freedom than I had in the free world? After thinking about it a little longer I said: “I’ve changed my mind, honesty is the most important thing to me! I want to be completely honest with myself, and others. I wouldn’t even know what I needed to work on if I wasn’t honest with myself. I value my integrity with others, but personal integrity has to be my foundation. It was a simple question, but it made me think: “What do I value most?”

I started teaching again in November, and I’m really glad I did. We taught our last class on Friday, and the theme was, dealing with the past, and how to use the present to create the future we want. We asked the women to write mission statements, short stories, 6 word memoirs, and obituaries to share with the class. The assignments were designed to help them figure out what they value most, and how to build a life around those values. We took time each week to work with the women on explaining their convictions, and in our last class I asked for volunteers to come to the front of the class and roll play as though they were in a job interview. Heidi invited a woman to come up that I wasn’t very familiar with, and half way through her explanation I got worried. Her situation was sensitive, and I could see that she was extremely vulnerable, and emotional. I thought: “Oh no, I can’t re-word this, or simplify it, it’s too serious”!  At one point I almost stopped her because I was worried how the class would respond.

When she finished I said, “I don’t have words to help you simplify what you’ve been through. But I want to tell you that what you shared with us today took a lot of courage; we honor your honesty, and thank you for trusting us enough to be so open today.”  The woman stood there for a minute, and then I gave her a hug. I said: “I love you, I think we all love you.” As she walked back to her seat the whole classroom stood up and clapped, and I noticed many of the women had tears in their eyes. It was a beautiful thing to see 60 women in federal prison giving their full attention, and support to one of their broken sisters. An amazing experience! I told them, “I’m not really worried about the way you explain your convictions to an employer, I’m worried about how you feel on the inside. If you make peace with yourself on the inside, all the outside things will work out.” When the class was over several of the women came up and thanked us for teaching the class. One of the women said: “I can’t believe what just happened in here. I haven’t ever felt anything like that in a class before, I didn’t even feel like I was in prison.” God is good, we are all his children, and none of us are forgotten; especially not His daughters that are incarcerated. I love you all, and thank you all for following along.

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