Separation and Isolation
“That is what learning is. You suddenly understand something you’ve understood all your life, but in a new way.”
Prison is kind of like a graduate school for separation and isolation. We could do well to take a lesson from the Men in White about how to deal with separation and isolation. Their lessons come in the form of their deeds and the message is clear-
take time to connect and pray
The coronavirus eruption inside the walls makes this a particularly frightening and stressful time to be in prison. Like us, prisoners want accurate information about what is going on and what they should expect. Unlike us, there is little expectation of transparency. News trickles in from outside sources about high infection and mortality rates. They know just enough to grasp that they are living in a tinderbox and the sparks are flying.
Last month I received letters from five inmates in five different institutions. The letters reveal there is great fear about what lies ahead. One talked about scared men. Another described someone who got sick and went into the hospital. They all mentioned more restricted movement within their unit. Their letters displayed a curious synthesis of fear and faith. Maybe Charles captured it the best:
“It is a very strange time with everything in slow motion. However, God did not give us the spirit of fear. True, I don’t like it nor understand it, but I do know it is a warning to all humans, Christians and non-Christians alike. This virus is a mean sucker, but we need to pray every day and call on the name of the Lord.”
Charles is one of 15,000 Texas prisoners who has been granted parole, but is unable to be released because he is unable to complete the pre-release requirements due to lockdowns inside the walls (he is one class day short of meeting his requirements). He shows no sign of bitterness and accepts the turn of events with grace.
Here are some snippets from their letters. From Lon:
How in the world are you and your family? I pray doing well these trying times of this COV-19 virus. I was thinking about you and your family and wanted to write and maybe lift up your spirits. As for me, still trusting our Lord and Savior. He’s our only way. We have to stay strong and keep our spirits lifted, as well as each other.”
Thank you for your letter. Hope all is well with you.
Glad you got a stern lecture about social distancing.”
(My son scolded me over a trip to the grocery store). He closed by adding, “
Wash your hands! You don’t know where this letter has been!”
“I hope you and your family are doing well coping with the current corona virus crisis. I can only imagine how stressful it must be out there, and that y’all are taking proper precautions to stay healthy.”
In this time of crisis, each, in some small way, took action to quell their own fears. I suddenly understood that in sending me a letter, they were ministering to me with their encouragement, advice, prayers for safety for me and my family, and by affirming their trust in the Lord.
I sometimes wonder if my prideful nature inhibits my openness to learn from my mostly unsophisticated pals in prison. They have not had the opportunities of education, travel, and life experiences that I have enjoyed. Their wisdom was forged on an anvil of hardship and tempered by their love for the Lord.
Take time to connect with a prisoner, a family member, or a friend. Send a note today. The best response to the physical demands of distancing is spiritual connection.
Peace be with you, Doug