Yesterday was on of my favorite days on book tour! I spent the morning at the Maine Correctional Center in Windham. I did a one hour book talk and visited with 20 men who live there. Then we moved over to the women’s correctional center and did a one hour talk with 8 women there. At the conclusion I donated 28 books…one for each participant to read.
The event was voluntary so only resident inmates who wanted to attend were present, BUT I was SO IMPRESSED with the people who were there.
They were interested, attentive and had lots of good comments, questions and perspectives. They appreciated being respected as thinkers…that someone would come speak with them and share ideas.
The event on the women’s side was perhaps the most inspiring. There was a bit of magic in the room as we sat in a circle and talked about the book. The group was so into the discussion that we collectively decided I would come back and have a book club discussion after they finished reading in a few weeks.
I was excited about this opportunity to go to the prison because I felt that many people there could relate to and connect with the ideas and messages in my book. The Sioux have a list of grievance so long and deep that it would be hard to count all the reasons they have to blame others for their situation…but…as I suggested at the prison…”The price for growth is to give up your grievances”…and that moving forward requires finding a path to forgive (not forget)…compartmentalize the past hurts…and look inward for the source of your own true strength. As Joseph Campbell once wrote, “We are the truth we seek to know.”
There was a lot of head nodding in the room as these ideas were shared.
Context is such an interesting thing. I was deep within the prison…behind 4 sets of double steel bar doors. All the participants in the book discussion were dressed in blue. There was no mistaking where we were. Yet…if we moved the book club to a library…and changed clothes…you would have had no idea it was a group of prisoners. Pretty much everyone waited after the talk concluded to shake hands, say thank you and share an idea or two of their own. Each person was smart, thoughtful and interested in the dialogue.
What everyone seemed to appreciate most was that they were being recognized. The mere act of going to visit them…of seeing them as important…worthy of a book discussion…that was what they appreciated most.
“They don’t even know we are here,” I have heard people say at Pine Ridge. Being forgotten and cast aside is hard.
“People are people,” I think this to myself all the time. Prison, Pine Ridge, Casco, China, Europe, Africa…it doesn’t matter..it’s all one tribe…and…people are people.
Wopila Tanka to Noreen Hopkins (activities director) at the prison for reading my book and connecting me with the people I spent time with yesterday morning! I loved it!