Holding On

Prisoner One is counting the days and trying to make plans for his release. Prisoner Two is biding his time, trying to make the best of an unfortunate situation, unwilling to give up the fight for his freedom. Prisoner Three has given up on ever being released. Prisoner Four has been in solitary confinement for months now – enough to make anyone want to give up! Prisoner Five is dying of terminal cancer. If I don’t miss my best guess, there are actually many Prisoner Ones, Twos, Threes, Fours and Fives, and I can’t begin to put myself in their shoes.

What keeps these men and women going? If they are lucky, they have a belief system. I think that hope must play a large role. Hope for a better tomorrow.

Doesn’t that make us a lot alike? Don’t all of us want something better for ourselves and for others? In spite of such a materialistic world, Christmas at least makes us stop and think of others.

Today, as I think of friends and loved ones who are sad, lonely, struggling to go on, facing death, or knowing someone who is dying, I think also about Prisoners One, Two, Three, Four, and Five. My Christmas wish for everyone is that they all know an abundance of hope…hope for a better tomorrow…hope for new and fulfilling relationships…hope for a fresh start…a new day…another year… another life. Blessings and hope and peace to one and all!

Hope and Value

Recently, blogs have begun to reflect on 2011 and are looking toward the new year. Certainly, my accomplishment this year has been having The Prisoner’s Prayer Book published. My life is otherwise pretty unremarkable. To the question “what do I want for 2012” I hope that the words in the prayers of this book will make a
difference in the lives of some prisoners. I pray that those who are lonely,
hopeless, even despairing, will pick up this book, read a few prayers, and be
moved. I want to instill hope.

I also want to create awareness within the general public. Before I volunteered for prison ministry, I knew absolutely nothing about this mysterious world behind bars. I didn’t know any prisoners. My “awareness” came only from what I may have seen on television or in the movies. Now I have a new awareness. I suspect there are many others out there for whom “prison” has never been a part of their vocabulary.

The size of a cell is approximately eight feet by ten feet. Sometimes, that space is shared. You are confined until the lock is released. You might be allowed only one hour out in the yard each day, and maybe time for a shower several times a week. Your food, shall we say, is not fine dining. If you are among those in a lower security level, you might be in a dormitory-like setting, but that will probably have more individuals housed there than the size for which the space was originally intended. You may be fortunate to have a “job” – if you can call it that. You work for pennies per hour. You try to save enough to pay for envelopes and stamps, personal hygiene products, maybe future phone calls. Yet, phone calls are expensive, as are the store items that you are allowed to buy.

From what I have learned, there is very little in the way of education or rehabilitation. These individuals are merely housed. When they have served their time, they may or may not be released on a timely basis. They will have been provided very little with which to change their lives for the better. They will return to the same locations from which they came.

I don’t mean to say that punishment for a crime is not warranted. I do, however, believe that these are men and women with souls, who have value. Often, they themselves do not know that. All too often, the crime was committed in a moment of passion. They never thought about, never knew what the consequences might be and what could lie ahead. We house these men and women in cages. Too often, they are treated worse than animals.

What I want for 2012, is greater awareness of what goes on beyond that barbed wire, those doors, and locking gates. I want education of the public, and I want education for prisoners. I want rehabilitation for prisoners. How else can we expect behaviors to change when they return to society? There are individuals with talent, skills, and possibilities who are being warehoused behind bars. Let’s harness that ability and talent! Let’s direct it for good. Let’s treat these, our fellow human beings, with dignity and respect, and give them hope for the future.

We are told to pray as though our prayers have already been answered. Envision it:  model men and women who have paid for their crime, who have learned respect for themselves and others, whose abilities and talents have been recognized. Now they have skills and self-worth and a desire to contribute to society. Yes, THIS is what I want for 2012. THIS is my prayer for the new year!