What my inmates are grateful for.

Posted: November 25, 2012 in Uncategorized
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I just got back from a long Thanksgiving weekend. This is a picture of SOME of my family that showed up Thursday afternoon for dinner.

As you can see, I come from a large family. Not only are there many of us but we are a very tight and close group. There is one thing we all know and that is this: No matter where you go, no matter what happens, no matter what you do, we always have each other.

There are a few that couldn’t make it for various reasons. Some were elsewhere  this weekend, some didn’t want to come and one or two are having personal problems and have decided to stay away for now.

None of it matters because all they have to do is make one phone call or send one message and we will be there.

Why? Because they are family. Whether related by blood, marriage or friendship, we always circle the wagons and take care of our own.

My sister asked each of us at dinner to say what they were grateful for. Everyone spoke of being grateful for our family. When it came to me, I said I was but that I was most grateful for the inmates I work with.

Needless to say, the table got a bit quiet and then my sister started clapping and others began to cheer.

You see, I never speak of them. I write about them but I never talk about them. No particular reason other than it’s just not conducive to your normal day-to-day chats.

Driving home this afternoon, I had 4 hours to think about things. I felt tired and recharged after spending 3 days with my family. Life seemed good again and hopeful. If I am away from them for too long, I begin to lose my perspective on things and often feel a bit lost, as if I am wandering around in a great desert all alone.

About a month ago, I asked a few of my students what, if anything, they were grateful for. Here are their responses along with a few I have heard over the years:

Manuel is grateful for being arrested and given the chance to get clean and sober. He is grateful for his family sticking by him while he confronts and handles his demons.

Yolanda is grateful for being able to place her 4 children in wonderful foster homes with people who will adopt them and give them the life she never could. She is grateful that one family will adopt her twins so they will never be separated. She is grateful that the foster care system will allow all of them to remain in contact with each other.

Suzanne is grateful that she met so many people who come into jails and run so many programs that she is now drug free and has learned how to get a job and keep it.

Rita is grateful that her family has not given up on her and that they come every week and support her.

Charlie is grateful that he got to spend time in Juvenile Hall where he had a place to sleep, food every day and people to listen to him and show him a better way to live.

Timothy was grateful for Mama Betty who gave him a place to stay, food to eat and a new family to love him.

Gracie was grateful that she was finally reunited with her family and was welcomed back into loving arms and helped financially so she no longer has to work and can stay with her grandchildren and raise them.

James is grateful for the obnoxious and stubborn people who show-up in his courtroom and chambers, demanding to help and insisting on it.

Roberto is grateful that he has learned how to read better and has started taking classes in jail. He is grateful that I, and others, write him every month and push him forward. He is grateful that he can now run his own reading classes in jail to help others.

Chanteel is grateful to have a job and a place to live and is no longer living on the streets.

There are many more, but these were the ones that popped up for me during my drive.

As blessed as I am and have been, I can honestly say that the main reason I know bad in my life is because I have had so much good.

My heart goes out to those who have not been as lucky as I have been. Perhaps that is the reason I work hard to make life a bit better for those around me. It’s because I got lucky and they didn’t.

It’s a crap shoot and I won. Those that didn’t need to know that they do matter and are important.

I am most thankful for all the lessons others have taught me and continue to teach me. I will do my best to pay it forward.

  1. Once again you leave me with a lump in my throat and something to think about.