Blogging to my Incarcerated Angels—in mental bondage and otherwise

     Going to jail or prison is easier than you think; especially, during these difficult times. Contrary to public opinion, those in jail are not all monsters; just mostly folks like you and me—who got caught and/or accused. Misguided, misinformed, disenfranchised, unfortunate, very poor decision makers, yes—you mix the cocktail; but monsters, no. And on that note, I’ve got to share with you, this.
     So I was rushing into work, late-ish as usual, focused on slipping by the front office, undetected, when a young lady bum-rushed me, gently, and starts close-talking. I teach adult education at night—mostly, immigrant students. Anyhow, this young lady, well groomed, fresh hair-do, make-up just right, and cute—she whispers, “Hi, Ms. Yvonne. It’s me.” Reading the confusion on my face correctly, she steps in closer and says, “You remember me? I’m Cindy. I was in jail.”
     Now my confused look migrates into shock, ‘cause this young lady has obviously got it all together. Surely, she’s never been in jail. I’m thinking it, but I don’t say it.
     She’s still reading me, right; because she knows me. So she clarifies the specifics, “I went to your Bible studies. Remember? And your writing workshops.”
     Damn, I wanna say out loud, but I don’t. Immediately, her beautiful, peaceful face, though not quite the face I recall because her incarcerated face was accented in pain, fear and anger (which is a disguise for fear) – well, immediately her features wash clear in the memory of my heart. And I am overjoyed.
     “I’m doing fine, Ms. Yvonne. I’m gettin’ it together,” she assures; which was apparent by her beauty and quiet confidence, inside and out, and by the fact that she was now a student—gettin’ it together in the tangible.
     She asked me how I was doing. “Fine, fine,” I say. I halted evidence of joyful tears, determined to feign matter-of-factness over the footnote of our meeting this way. I wonder does she know how much strength and inspiration she’s giving me? I wanna say it, but I don’t.
    She wanted to know how she could get in touch with me, “to find out more about that church, you and Ms. Sheyenne [my Bible study/mentoring cohort] were always talking about,” she asks. I release my tote bag, full of books and lesson plans, to the floor and got to scrabbling around in my purse for my business card. I couldn’t move fast enough.
     “Here,” was all I said as I handed her my card, but the after-look we shared said so much more. It said, “Overcoming and faith.” And when I could pull my happy-self together, I got to telling her about my book, The Prison Plumb Line, “my tribute to the comeback stories, like yours,” I said, and other incarcerated souls I’ve met. The ones who have pressed indelible marks on my life during the nearly 20 years I’ve been a prison ministry, and a mentoring volunteer—pushing empowerment through writing to those who have momentarily lost their way.
     And here’s where we (i.e., you and I) break for a commercial message: imprisonment of the mind and heart happens behind bars, and not. [Now, back to our regular programming.]
     “Oh yeah?” Cindy says, about the book. Now she’s relaxed in our encounter. Me, too. ‘Cause now we’re talkin’ accomplishment and faith.
     “It’s a tiny book, a novella. You remember what I told you that was? You can get through it, quick. Maybe write a book report for a class assignment,” I say. She smiles and nods approval. Then I add in jest, and truth, “‘Cause I know you’ll recognize some of the characters.” Our smiling silence was telling. Then the encounter was over.
     Now, let the record show, how grateful I am for the other day’s impromptu with Cindy. In fact, whenever I’m out and about, I’m mighty grateful every time a variation of that scene plays itself out with other newly released success stories. It says, to me, I’m living my purpose—blasting the hell out of recidivism. Never taking it for granted, my gratefulness often jokes about it to my gals and guys still in jail. “Now, the next time I see you,” I say, giving all the eyeball I can give, “let it be in Wal-Mart or Target.” We laugh a knowing laugh that means so much more. Our laughter releases into the ozone our joint intent, actions and prayers to press the mind, body and soul toward overcoming and growing faith.
     Oh yeah, as always, my Angel’s name was changed to protect the innocent, and the guilty.


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