I'm getting a pen pal who is jail. Yes, I know this sounds like a big bowl of wrong.

At the beginning of the year I followed along with an online spiritual program. This is an annual gathering of people from different wisdom traditions such a Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, etc. (I'm Buddhist.) There are different leaders on the site and people sign up to listen to talks each day from one or more of the leaders. After listening to the talks, people do spiritual practice for about half an hour. When I signed up for the program, I received a newsletter that included lots of info and a little blurb about a Pen Pal program for persons in jail. I know, it already sounds like a bad idea, but wait!

Evidently there are prisoners who practice Buddhism and do not have persons they can discuss their practice with. I have chronic migraines and a neurological disorder that prevents me from attending group practice. Although I read and listen to talks, I certainly could benefit from correspondence with another Buddhist. Although I realize a prisoner might not be the best person to speak to about these issues, but I also figure, why not if the person doesn't know where I live and I'm not in danger?

When I inquired about joining, I was sent the following information: "All correspondences with the volunteers and prisoners are handled through our office – both ways. Only first names are used, and we ask volunteers not to indicate their geographic location." Phew! Woot! That sounded good, because although I would like to be a pen pal, I certainly don't want anyone showing up at the house. I have enough problems without, "Oh honey, remember that guy Roger who I told you I was writing about?" "You mean the one who committed armed robbery?" "Yeah! Well guess what? He's here."

I've asked myself the question you are probably asking: but why a prisoner. Well, I'm not really sure. I do have a soft spot for people thrown away by our society-- the seriously mentally ill (especially persons diagnosed with schizophrenia), addicts, parolees, prisoners, etc. When I worked, I gravitated towards these populations. Up until recently, I was going to school to be a counselor to help people change their lives for the better. I had to leave school and am now applying for disability. I'm very limited in what I can do. I do know my spiritual practice has been one of the reasons I've stayed semi-sane through the last 4 years. (I'm sure you are getting an indication of the "semi" part.) And I love talking about my practice, but I don't have many people I can talk about it with.

I think all humans are deserving of some compassion and understanding. I'm not saying I think people who have murdered someone or molested a child should be given lots of compassion about their crime and let out of prison and go on committing heinous crimes. Certainly it is much better for them to feel hella guilty, remorseful, and take responsibility for their actions and make appropriate reparations. I'm just looking to relate to them as human beings with spiritual beliefs who wish to discuss their practice and allow me to do the same. So after explaining all that, I'm excited I'm now off the waiting list--yes there was a waiting list of weirdos like me--and getting my very own prisoner pen pal. I'll keep you up to date.


BusyWorkingMama on April 17, 2011 at 7:38 PM said...

Good for you, Krista. I agree with you on the compassion and understanding. I saw you came to enter on my blog - just wanted to stop by and return the favor! Have a great week and good luck!

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