Two weeks ago, I shared a writing that I received from an offender housed at Greenville Correctional Center. That writing was the first of four simple blessings (out of 10) that Randy was reflecting. Continued below are the remaining six.

My fifth blessing is artwork, which has been a major factor in my ability to survive cancer in the last decade. I have always loved art and started doing it at a young age, but I never forgot to continue this love over the years. In prison, I have been able to reconnect with my creativity, and it has been wonderful. For me, art functions much like meditation. When creating a picture, I cease to be in prison. I am within my landscape or whatever the picture of the day may be. Plus, making and creating pictures gives me a tangible purpose, something to hold, touch and know that I created. It provides a feeling of accomplishment and purpose. The fact that others seem to enjoy it is just icing on the cake.

I am probably lucky not to experience too many episodes of senility at my age, so my sixth blessing in my memory, which is still excellent. I vividly remember holidays with family and friends, and I draw upon these happy memories to make my life more tolerable at this time of year. I am fortunate to have so many pleasant memories.

Music is my seventh blessing. Holiday music conjures up memories of happier times. When I hear certain holiday songs, I can almost smell the wonderful aromas that came from my mother’s kitchen as she baked and prepared for the holidays. Both music and aromas filled the house.

My eighth blessing is my reduced ability to hear. Yes, I can still hear, but many times I have found that my ability to distinguish conversational words clearly has wanted. This is a blessing, because in prison, the conversations around you are impossible to avoid and usually not worth hearing. Now that my hearing acuity is failing, I simply do not have to hear these conversations. If I ever get the hearing aid that an E.N.T. specialist advised was needed, then I shall have to remember to wear it selectively.

My ninth blessing is my undiminished, sometimes slightly sick sense of humor. It helps me survive in prison. Others may wonder why I am smiling. It is usually easier to say that I thought of something very humorous rather than be totally honest. Many people in prison have no sense of humor. I do not mind when told that I am always smiling. There is no much in the world that is humorous. Why not enjoy it?

Finally, my 10th blessing is my ability, over the years, to remain true to myself. Yes, I am institutionalized. I try to maintain a schedule. It is rigid, and it rarely varies. Still, I am who I once was, plus 20 years. Everyone in prison gets tattoos, but I have none, except for the tiny dots given to me at VCU for cancer radiation treatments. I wear my hair in the same style that I always have. I even cut my own hair in order to be assured that this doesn’t change. I have none of the usual prison interests: gangs, football, basketball, cards or gambling. I do not seek out drugs or some other means of getting high, and I do not sleep all day and night. I am blessed that prison has changed me so little.

My identity is intact, and I thank God for this fact. Ten simple blessings have enabled me to remain myself. If you have friends, family and your freedom, then you are blessed.

I think there is much for each of us to consider in Randy’s message. God’s word reminds us to be thankful in all situations. While most of those reading this column have likely never been incarcerated, how many of us have been imprisoned spiritually? As we prepare to start a new year, a new decade – it is past time to take countenance of all the ways that Jehovah-jireh provides for our every need.

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