It’s human to live with purpose, to have meaning in every day and to make a difference in the lives of others. Prison strips away all of this. What we call “prison reform” is the job of government and do-good organizations. The job of prisoners is to do their time and accept the things they cannot change.
Losing his connection with friends and family is the most difficult thing for Andrew to accept. Learning the new “rules” of engagement and code of conduct is a necessary chore that only puts off the things that are important to him.
“I can send a post card but not get them in. All letters must have my name and D.O.C. #115256. My parents have not written me back. I gave my mother a Mother’s Day card and still no response. Oh well, I tried. Time’s going slow, visits are only on Tuesdays and I know you have your grandson. Once I get out of CCU (Central Correctional Unit) I’ll be able to have more visits.”
Constant change makes forming relationships difficult, even for Andrew, but maybe homelessness has prepared him for this. On the streets there is no routine, or at least none that can’t be changed by the weather.
“The officers took my old Bunky the other day for having an attitude with the nursing staff. I now have a new one who believes in the Lord. I’m sending a picture of a bird my old Bunny drew for Mrs. Emily (one of Andrew’s pen pals from church). She really likes wildlife.”
Andrew somehow avoids the danger of getting locked up in his mind, allowing the world of prison to shrink his hope and future. Every letter includes wishes for those he left behind, like Emily, and dreams of what lies ahead. “People here know that I am a Christian and they respect that.I once said my daily walk with God is easy as long as I put Him first. Well, the devil seems to push me off the path yet I still strive to do my best.
“My high school records came back and I only need five more credits. So I signed up for school this semester. They only accept twelve guys from our building. Hopefully I’ll get in.” To make a difference in the lives of others, you need those who are making a difference in yours. Every letter he receives lifts him above his circumstances. Emily, Joan, Cheri and others are lifelines that lead to hope and remind him that he is loved.
Despite the missing pieces of his life – freedom, family and possessions – Andrew continues to plan for the next chapter of his life which he believes will be better. He has accepted the things he cannot change and has decided to change the things he can – his mind, his attitude and his life beyond prison.
In his next letter he faces up to a problem that could change his future and shares an encounter that could change someone else’s.