Yesterday, we held our fourth monthly writing group inside Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility for pairs of women and their community mentors, many of whom travel great distance to attend this mutual sharing opportunity. Just as with our weekly groups, we open with a poem, write to a choice of prompts and share our writing around with read-back lines and discussion. The format of the session also allows mentor/mentee pairs ample visiting time with no planned agenda.
In honor of MLK Day, we offered opportunities to consider such big topics as peace, non-violence and alternative scenarios in response to the simple question, what if? As always, the writing covered quite a spectrum of personal and political concerns, including gay rights, political accountability, living with less, anger management and contemplations of a world without war, violence or drugs. One writer chose to pen a personal reflection on how to make peace a reality in her life and world – a reflection that speaks eloquently, I think, to the experience of many incarcerated women seeking to pull themselves and their lives together for a stronger and healthier future:
Listen with an open heart.
Love more deeply.
Give myself permission to laugh.
Learn that it’s OK for me to feel and step out of my past.
Walk lighter, knowing wisdom is just within me; trusting that wisdom to guide me.
Eat healthier. No pasta, no chips, no candy. Fresh fruit, lots of salad greens and light dressing.
Exercise, disciplining myself to do good in ways my body can withstand.
Greet each day anew; give, not take.
Share in the blessing that flourish within my life.
Plant, sow and give in abundance.
Take constructive criticism.
Live in ways that are offered, having faith that suggestions are just suggestions, being careful which ones to apply to my life.
To love myself, unconditionally.
Bring peace and order to my life.
Stop checking out on life.
Learn from my mistakes and not repeat them again.
Stop and think.
Enjoy nature and give out good energy to those around me.
Help my community and always enjoy my family. Build bridges so I’m afloat, not sinking.
Let those within my life know I’m changing and show them through action, not words.