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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!

People Are People!

7 thoughts on “People Are People!

  1. Powerful message here, Kevin. And taking your message, your personhood, and yes, your magic to other “reservations” is genius as well as deeply loving. You honor the spirit of mitakuye oyasin–all my relations. Sally

  2. Kevin – you are amazing to think of getting what you have learned from the Lakotas to the prison population. And the hope the prisoners can take these ideas to help themselves. Ann Deming

    Sent from my iPhone

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  3. I have worked inside those prison walls since 2011, helping with the Men’s Native American Circle of Four Winds Brotherhood, a monthly volunteer offering to the Chaplain of Religious services. By 2012 I was teaching guitar music classes and ensemble playing 2-3 hours per week. My hope is to help inmates who have been labeled and forgotten by the world outside the walls, to find their own true voice through music and a Native American teaching ceremony known simply as a talking circle

    As I do this I am gratified to learn the stories of these people, often misunderstood by authorities and dragged into a system of unaccountable, private corporate profiteering off loaded prison populations. The U.S. contains about 5% of the planet’s population, while 25% of the world’s incarcerated are in America’s correctional institutions, making almost one out thirty Americans under some sort of penal control. Many for victimless crimes and disproportionately racially profiled.

    Most of the inmates I meet go out of their way to be show good behavior, kindness, gratitude, and work toward improving their skills of expression, generosity, humor, and leadership. I am all for law and order and safety and rightful justice. Helping these convicts to move through the system as quickly and peacefully as possible, and to stay out after release, can only serve the greater good of our communities and economy. I feel better informed and stronger as a teacher and facilitator after every volunteer session I make there.

    Seeing Kevin work his gentle magic as a born leader who listens to each voice around him with responsiveness and caring patience is a great inspiration for me to witness. I am honored to share his book with many, and to return again and again to my own copy, which Kevin personally inscribed for me. Rosie, proprietress of the Singing Horse Trading Post, is one of the stars of “Not For Sale”. She’s now a star in my life too, as I thank Kevin for arranging the Trading Post as my destination for a road trip earlier this June.

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