While this post neither addresses, nor endorses, the intricacies of the prison system, it is the focal point for this post.
The news of our daily lives become the centerpiece of our daily conversations. High ranking favorites often include relationship sagas, financial epics, home improvement conquests, entertainment analogs, health chronicles and personal heroics. Like any of us, we talk and write about the adventures, events and characters filling our lives. Having friends in jail has brought forward a new sense of awareness. An awareness about the value and the impact of simple images; often ones taken for granted. Those images frequently marking the events and the familiar backdrop of our daily lives; such as, trees, roads, ducks, hail, clouds, variety in architectural structures . . . the constantly lost to find salt and pepper shakers . . . the various colors and shapes of personal care products . . . the variety pack of clothing styles and colors . . . The very things strikingly absent in the lives of incarcerated inmates; caged inside metal doors.
Writing to a loved one, a child at camp or a get well card seems easy, often effortless. Yet writing to someone behind prison walls somehow feels different, even daunting. Really, what do you say? How is day going? What’s been happening in your life since we last saw each other? Do you share your latest outdoor outing, vacation plans or updates on the mysterious soap slugging vampire rampaging your bathroom? Knowing too, people are living where no matter where they are.
Growing up I remember the enchanting magic of receiving bright, colorful postcards with images of faraway places. Their fascinating, yet informative, snippets of information peeking out from behind the card. Then too, the daily news of its magnificent sender. Stepping into these images of intrigue, adventure and connectedness, I hit the local stores and truck stops collecting a wide variety and geographically designed postcards. Now filling them with short snippets of the day’s adventures, I package them up, at five or six at a time, and mail them off; either weekly or bi-monthly to friends behind bars.
Letters handwritten on standard, faded white paper now find their way into my mailbox. Paper filled with stories about their interaction and perception of the images on the postcards they received behind bars. Stories about posting them on darkened, blank walls. Stories of others coming around to ask questions about the postcards and the images they contain. Still others sharing stories about their adventures. Then, later learning about how this colorful collage of postcards had become a gathering point of communication and connectedness. A place where people meet people. A place to share stories. A place to see “what’s new” inside a predetermined world. The images, the meaning, the feelings and the stories we attach to them often become the focal point and cornerstones of our daily lives; inside or outside prision walls.
Until Next Time . . . Change a story; Change a life.