"There are such extraordinary moments emerging in many of these compassion-based programs in prisons and communities. In this season of abundance and thanksgiving, I am reminded of an amazing and moving council I got to participate in at Lancaster State Prison with a group of inmates who had such incredible stories about food. One shared that he has spent decades wondering about pomegranates... so curious about their taste and feel, and their prevalence in mythology and poetry, and his longing to know a pomegranate, and his realization that a sentence of "life without the chance of parole" meant he's probably never get to taste one.
"That night, as I walked past a large stack of them at Whole Foods, I felt my heart race. Was it mine to sneak one in next time? Should I petition the authorities to allow it? Or take a picture? Or maybe just to bear witness to the longing and so deeply appreciate my life and the profound teaching these incarcerated elders have for all of us about memory, meaning, longing, grief and renewal...?
"This is such meaningful, sacred work and there is so much of value to be done to integrate folks who are for the most part invisible behind so many concrete walls. These are sons and daughters, in many cases moms and dads, poets and athletes, artists and nerds, violent bullies and kindhearted friends. Many have been there for decades - some are far different men from the knuckleheads who did something stupid years ago. And most of us just chose not to think about it. I think how we regard and make sense of all this says so much about who we are. Sharing these stories creates such intimacy with the suffering, the longing, the compassion, the humanity of our fellow community members.
"These stories open our hearts and shift the way we view the system. When we bear witness to these stories we are changed, profoundly. We get to really feel the impact of a dysfunctional system that has real consequence on real people. And it's about all of us..."