...Maybe it is not a one time shot.
To be honest, I am finding little patches of clarity where I sense God's presence and have the sense that miracles are happening as we speak. The peace crane class continues and I am hoping we can make cranes for everyone here at Carswell--guards, staff, and inmates included. I am astounded that the squares of paper have been folded into a thing of beauty and from that, some hope and goodwill has happened. God's small miracles on a grand scale...Grand b/c you can't imagine what this means at a place like Carswell.
Somehow I have a hunch that it is this concept of accepting our lives, holding the journey of our lives as sacred that we find peace. Maybe peace is achieved not as much by outward revolutions as it is by inward revolutions of the heart. And maybe, I'm not sure but just like a deep, deep wound it heals from the inside, from inside each of us bring healing power to the world outside. Again I am not sure of what I feel but somehow through out history horrible atrocities happen and the healing happens from within and moves on outside. So if I can forgive and heal my own hurts then perhaps this is how I forgive the guards. And I can forgive them than perhaps some of the bitterness and heaviness is relieved not by me but by them.
Oh well, I want to close with a couple of Merton quotes from The Book of Hours...
"Oh, the depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!"
A door opens in the center of our being and we seeem to fall through it into immense depths which, although they are infinite, are all accessible to us; all eternity seems to have become ours in this one placid and breathless contact.
THis is the litany for tonight:
"No matter how simple discourse may be,
it is never simple enough.
No matter how simple thought may be,
it is never simple enough.
No matter how simple love may be,
it is never simple enough.
The only thing left is the simplicity of the soul of God,
or better, the simplicity of God."
My prayer to God, who can do all things and for whom nothing is impossible is to own this mystery which is life...to love well, not properly, but well with a fire burning...to simply and generously love. Somehow I think it is in loving, giving love that we receive peace. And the world will know peace-
PLease, please, please hold the so very sick and the young, confused and scared women who are here...please hold them lovingly to the light so they might know love and peace.
With so much respect and love to and for each of you as you live peace in the world,
Continue to send origami paper!
"While there is a lower class,
I am in it,
while there is a criminal element,
I am of it,
And while there is a soul in prison, I am NOT FREE!
May 17, 2007
"To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you."~Lewis Smedes
As I was wiping tables yesterday I found a question welling up inside me. Many of the women I am with constantly ask me if the protest I did was worth it given the circumstances I find myself in. I consistently say yes and I do not lie. I do mean it. Yes, I do not regret for an instant.
But the question that welled up in my heart is a little different....I thought, what is the most important thing I can do? Is closing the SOA? Is it standing up to the powers that cause such death and destruction? Is it ending torture or war or poverty? And what came from deep inside me was this...I think the greatest most important thing I can do is to simply love! And out of loving comes the rest. The stand I took at Fort Benning was simply an act of love and prison is a consequence of loving people. Here in prison I have come to love some the women here and listening to them and doing what I can are acts of love and consequences of loving. I have come to understand that what is done out of love is what is my heart's desire and that wanting the SOA to close, working for peace and an end to torture and war in and of themselves simply acts of loving people. This is not theory or nice words...it is my heart's desire. It burns in my heart. It makes my love for my husband and my kids burn inside of me in a deeper way.
I am by no means a saint..I am learning. THis prison is one of the more unlikely places to learn about loving kindness. I keep on thinking about the words to one of Carrie Newcomer's songs..."God speaks in rhyme and paradox. THis I know is true." And as I listen to the Mother F---ing this and M.F. that banter that goes on outside my little cell...Ironicly there is God, too. A real God or Grace or Spirit not a theological theory...no there is Maria and Elaine talking, one comforting the other..there is the lone deaf inmate who just found a new arrival who is deaf and their hands FLY in their desparate yearning for conversation. And paradoxically, there is God in that "thank you" from a guard or just the sheer absence of the usual crude, rude, and demeaning behavior we usually experience. There is Grace in those small and large miracles as I witness one wheelchair-bound woman teach another how to make a peace crane...and the light in her eyes when she sees her handiwork!
Last night we had some unusual drama. A poor mother raven got up our 4 flights of stairs and eventually got into our unit. If flew from rail to rail to rail on the second tier. Women were screaming, cursing, laughing, and running around with towels draped over their heads. There were 100's of ideas on how to catch the poor thing. I tried to throw a sheet over it. Others threw food, popcorn, crackers to it. Some tried to throw shoes at it or hit it with their mesh duffle bags. And where was the guard? Locked in his office. I left, went to Mass and came back. Finally we got the bird in the bus-stop which is a little larger room. One woman is swinging her commissary bag, screaming. "I'm gonna kill the f---ing bird." A few times she nearly hit me in the head. I finally grabbed the bag and held on while one of my roommates caught the poor thing. An enormous cheer went up along with some more coloful language...and I thikn an audible sigh from the congregated group of guards. I'm happy to say the bird lived! That was enough excitement for an entire year.
I have also had the experience of having someone "packed out" on a moment's notice. Ms. Mary is perhaps the one and only kindred spirit I have on my unit. She is from AK...we work the dining room together. ONe minute we are running around wiping tables and the next she is gone. No chance for good-byes. I did catch up with her after work to give her a hug. Mary was the only person I felt comfortable asking for a hug when the weight of this place was just too much. There were not strings, no layers of anything, nothing hidden with her. She is simply a good soul. They are not relling her where she is going. She was just told to throw her belongings into a trash bag and take it to Registration and Discharge. She even had to pack her own shoes, underwear, and bras...she had to give back her khaki shirts and pants and socks. She was issued "flight clothes" which are a sportsbra that is so stretched out it gives no support, a flimsy khaki shirt and pants about 5 sizes too big. THey gave her blue slip on deck shoes which flopped off her feet. No socks and the soles of her slip ons were completely through. If it rains, she might as well go barefoot. These are her only clothes till she gets to where ever they are transferring her. She will probably spend days if not weeks in these same clothes while being transported from county jail to county jail. Folks, this is common...she will find out where she is going once she gets there. Meanwhile she can't call her daughter to tell her anything...the reason: securit risk. My heart aches for her.
Then there is a young 23 year old who just found out she has cancer in her sinus cavity and nose. the cancer has also spread to her brain. She was told shackled and alone. Her parents were not there. She will see doctors, go through surgery and recovery on her own. She will be guarded 24/7 even when she uses the bathroom. She will be shackled to the bed or while being transported. Even in the recovery room while she is unconscious she will be shackled to the bed. If she dies on the table her death certificate will say escape by death and she will be "soft-cuffed" in the body bag. Hopefully she will live...hopefully her age is on her side. Those of us who know her pray for her. She made a peace crane yesterday. Think of your 23 yr. old son or daughter or brother or sister...at the time when perhaps they need family around the most...it is denied.
This, my friends, is so inhumane. I know I keep on using that word. I have witnessed inhuman treatment before in my life but the DAILY manifestation, the hourly manifestations, time after time, after time beat down on one's heart...and what keeps people human are those small and large acts of kindness that pop up day after day.
I am continuing to pray for the ability to forgive and not carry the heavy sacks of anger around. I found, in a Woman's Day magazine of all places, a page on for-give-ness...there is a small blurb about the "F" word. Now the other "F" word is used her with the regularity the likes I've never seen but this "F" word is about a website called www.theforgivenessproject.com. I will be looking this up when I get home. If anyone finds out what this is please let me know. I try day after day, incident after incident to forgive the cruelty, the indecent behavior, the contemptous, rude and brutal treatment. It is a very, very conscious effort on my part. It is like literally slowing down my natural reaction of anger and contempt and dropping those stones which come in the form of thoughts and/or words or snide remarks. It is so hard. It goes against the grain so much. SOmetimes quite a few times, actually, I fail. But there are those times when I drop it all and do Tonglen instead. I breathe for myself and for them. I realize we are both victims of an injust system. It seems to help if I can think about how we are alike rather than isolating myself and/or them into us vs. them camps. It is so much easier to forgive someone I identify with than someone I have out in a foreign camp. Perhaps these are the first steps to loving enemies...finding ways in which they are not enemies anymore..finding them human.
Our Peace Crane Project continues on. By now you have gotten the internet message to send origami paper. Please do if you can. The women on the 5th floor chronic care unit have taken up the idea to make a crane for each person in this prison. It's too hard to cut squares from magazines...I am typing up a small message about peace cranes to hand out with the birds. I don't know if I will be here to see each person get their bird but I feel as if a strange seed of peace has been planted here in the most unlikely place. And so it goes on and on.
I willl try to write more frequently in the remaining time I have. I have many stories to tell. Women who have specifically asked for advocacy of media or just word of mouth. Women who just want a voice and of course I will oblige. Please continue to hold us to the light which dispells all darkness. The light which heals and keeps reminding us we are precious human beings.