Part of what we do through our ministry, My Brothers’ Crossing, is a jail and prison ministry. We connect with people who are incarcerated at the local, regional or state level. For the next two columns I submit, I’ll share a writing that I received from one of these men. His name is Randy. This week, I’m sharing the first four of the blessings that he currently counts in his life. In two weeks, I’ll complete the column with the last six blessings.
There are certainly consequences for our actions. The people to whom my wife and I minister through this outreach do not deny this truth. They acknowledge the behaviors and choices they have made that have resulted in their incarceration. Personally, I used to hold a dim and harsh view toward those who have found themselves on the wrong side of the law. But through repentance and forgiveness, we can be restored. We want to be evidence of God’s love and hope that we’ve been shown. Below is the first part of a letter from Randy.
Christmas, or any holiday for that matter, is a difficult time for those who are incarcerated. The usual isolation one experiences in prison is magnified many times during the holidays. Some inmates miss friends and family. Even a visit from a loved one does little to allay this problem, because the visitation is brief, and then the inmate must return to the desolation of his cell for the duration of the holiday.
Some inmates find the holidays difficult, because the holiday season reminds them of traumatic experiences with loved ones; whether from the loss of loved ones or from the remembrances of events best forgotten. Many inmates are sullen, moody and very difficult at this time of year. Since I am incarcerated, I can relate to this difficulty. For my first five years of incarceration, all I wanted was for the holiday to end as soon as possible.
In prison, we have no Christmas decorations, no friends or family, and most definitely no good Christmas meal. After many years of incarceration, I now focus more on the things that I have always loved about the holiday season. I especially focus on the things about which I can count as blessings, even in prison. Where once there were the 12 Days of Christmas, now there are my 10 Simple Blessings Behind Bars.
God is my first blessing. He is always with me and undoubtedly responsible for my altered perspective on holidays behind bars. God helps me not to dwell on what is lost. He helps me focus on being as positive of an influence as possible here in prison; doing for others is a way to give to others. This giving is not limited to the holidays. Giving of yourself and your time can and should continue throughout the year. Helping others helps you stay positive in all aspects of life.
Friendship is my second blessing. Even after two decades in prison, I still have two old friends who have not forgotten me. Sue and Bill are very special people, and I am sure that I do not appreciate their friendship and loyalty as much as I should. Additionally, I have several friends here in prison. Generally speaking, they are not your typical inmates. Most are older, well-educated, and quiet, thoughtful people who lost control of their lives for a brief time. They must not spend the rest of their days behind bars.
My third blessing is J.T., with whom I became acquainted over two years ago. His friendship and encouragement is invaluable. I always feel invigorated after speaking to him on the phone. He encourages both my artwork and my writing. If everyone in the world were as supportive and kind as he, then the world would be a much better, kinder and less stressful place. People would smile more, engage each other more and be happier.
Believe it or not, cancer is my fourth blessing. It has brought me much closer to God. Cancer is not necessarily the curse that most people believe it to be. For me, truly, it is a gift from God. I consider myself lucky to have been blessed with it.
To be continued.