Sunday, July 2, 2017

Peace and harmony behind bars?

It was a breath of fresh air.

The prison gates clanked behind me.  A Corrections Officer frisked me.  Into another room…more gates noisily opening and closing.  A remote control unit with an emergency button for me to carry in the event I felt endangered or threatened.  Still one more gate, and then an escort through the prison yard to another building.

And in that moment, I escaped from some insanity never experienced before in my eight decades---

Entire families hardly verbally communicating with each other anymore---simply texting!

Two factions claiming that scripture is on their side, and that between contemporary music and traditional church music, only one is acceptable!

People of alleged integrity claiming that it’s OK to discontinue healthcare for some segments of our society.

An abrupt reversal in our nation’s care and concern about immigrants, racism and the environment.

A tacit approval from our nation’s leaders to denigrate and bad-mouth those with whom we disagree.

30 men welcomed me into their prison classroom last week, for a book club meeting. There was hugging and hand-shaking, as old and new friends greeted me. The tone of the meeting was set when an inmate suggested that he offer an opening prayer.

And then, behind bars, I had the most amazing experience.  Yes, there was some discussion of my book, the actual reason for the get-together. But the two-hour session was much bigger than that.  Here were 30 men who, according to some segments of our society, make up the “worst of the worst,” showing dignity and kindness and respect and consideration to those with varying opinions and ideas.  Here were men who not only wanted to discuss the lessons and ramifications of the SWEET FREEDOM story, they wanted to discuss what to do about these concerns and problems.  These men behind bars wanted to explore how to make this a better world!

Can you even imagine it?

Believe me, I didn’t need a portable alarm system in my pocket.  I needed a magic sponge to absorb the love, concern, compassion and respect that filled that room.  I wanted to take it home with me.  I wanted it in my soul to ward off what I knew I could anticipate when I left the prison grounds and returned to the real world.

May God keep the afterglow alive.

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