The table is clean and smooth, a wooden tabletop bolted to a steel frame that’s bolted to the linoleum floor of the day room. There are ten of them. Guys make food, play cards, work on crafts or sit at these tables watching one of two giant televisions. Tonight the table is my “office”, so I tell the guys, and this is how it is every night.
I’ve spent the past few hours writing but stopped because I need a break. I’m writing the second post in the death penalty series, and it’s mentally taxing. The subject is heavy and important to me. I know men and women on death row or who once were. I just realized, my break has me writing another post.
Some of the guys say I’m always working, but I don’t see it that way. What is work anyway? I love the projects I’m involved in and the things I do. There’s meaning and purpose in helping others
I’ve had a long day. I’m a week out from my third parole hearing, and preparation is always exhausting. There’s so much that needs to be done ahead of a parole hearing.
My friend Richard asked if I’m excited. These hearings generate a whole range of emotions, but excitement isn’t one of them. I’m too busy and too focused for the luxury of excitement. After 3 decades of confinement I have a lot that I’ll need to get done should I gain parole.
The men around me stress over returning to society and what it will be like. Its common. I don’t feel a shred of apprehension. My family is supportive in every possible way, and this provides me peace of mind. Most incarcerated who’ve endured long sentences don’t have that. Time destroys what was, leaving you with what is. It’s a sad truth.
I’ve had to filter out more negativity lately than usual. There’s gossip and judgement behind your back, guys are quick to judge others in lead-ups to hearings. I think if they focused more of that energy on themselves then maybe they’d discover the things that they need to change about themselves.
I’m not liked by some of the men here. They see me writing and working like this every night, and they despise it. Some of the men know I write this blog, less are aware of my other advocacy efforts with outside organizations. A small few dislike that I devote my time to such positive efforts.
I used to wonder why someone would dislike me because I’m doing positive things. Behind these walls, there’s a lot of self-loathing and hatred. I wonder what they’d think if they knew I work hard for all of us, including them?
For every man projecting negativity my way there are twenty others projecting thanks and positivity toward me. Knowing that others are grateful for my actions and effort makes it all worthwhile.
Positive out=positive in.
This afternoon my friend “Dot”, a small dude with a big personality, asked me for help with an algebra problem. It brought me back to the days when I tutored GED here decades ago. I enjoyed tutoring. The fact that Dot came to me shows me that I’m on the right track in life. Positive out=positive in.
The same thing happened a couple of days ago. Except, it was one of the men that talks about me behind my back. He doesn’t know that I know he does. He came to me with a business class math question. It was one of those “if something on sale costs “X” for 20 items, and this is 80.4% of the regular price, then what is the regular price?” Pretty simple stuff if you know the equation, and I do. But I only know because years ago I ran into the same type of question, and it drove me nuts before I discovered the simple equation answering all variations of that question.
In prison it’s easy to dwell on the negativity of others, but I don’t do it. I could have easily told him I didn’t know the answer and sent him on his way, and he would have missed the question on his assignment. When he left I wondered for a moment if he would still talk bad about me behind my back and realized it didn’t matter.
Positive out=positive in.
It’s quiet in the day room. I’m not sure where the men have gone tonight, but I’ll accept the tranquility. It was a nice day outside so perhaps everyone is in bed, tired from the first Spring-like day.
I spent the day in the middle of the yard, playing fetch with the dogs I had. When I’m out there I am by myself, just me and the dogs. It’s a blessing, and I never lose sight of that.
Lettersfromchristopher is an advocacy effort to draw attention to what incarceration is like in the United States. Please like, comment and share these posts with everyone. Thank you! for following.
4 thoughts on “Reflection by Christopher”
Good luck Christopher with the parole board. I will be praying for the members to have compassion for you. You have accomplished so much during your confinement. Three decades have placed but you have had an incredible positive impact on all the lives you have touched in that time. You are such an inspiring individual and friend and I am so very proud of you. I look forward to seeing you someday soon.
“I wonder what they’d think if they knew I work hard for all of us, including them?” I know a man who, 2000+ years ago did the same thing and he was persecuted by those who were full of self-loathing and hatred, too. Keep doing what you are doing, Bro.
For a lot of people in society, maintaining a positive attitude and outlook especially when our elected officials have a propensity to bend, twist, and at times break the bonds of civility in favor of making themselves feel important.
For you to maintain a positive attitude despite the double-speak that you encounter on a near constant basis is commendable. Keep the blogs going, and continue with the advocacy — it will have an impact.
Praying for you, brother. I submitted a comment in your support to the Board… not really sure how that works, but I filled out the form. Love you! <3