Rosehedge/Multifaith Works Blog

Monday, November 14, 2011

Worth: A Measure of Value

  I visit inmates at MCC-WSR, Monroe Correctional Complex-Washington State Reformatory, a prison.  A place where there is no trust; guards,fellow inmates, friends, even family, are not immune from betraying.    So, here I come, for a one-on-one visit.

  There is an African proverb, "An enemy is a person whose story you haven't heard."  I hear. Even better, I attempt to listen.  It's not the "I" who is important here, it's the presence of Shanti.  So, I listen, and I believe.  This belief has conditionality.  It is held between us on a path we walk together. Oh, I've heard stories change, deny, even contradict earlier versions, but the storyteller and I are  still on a path together, and I continue to believe . My giving  the Shanti model of unconditionality challenges the inmate whose life is all about conditions and contradictions, his perceptions of what is possible have too often shrunk as he teeters on a tightrope  when he might be walking at least the width of a footpath.

  Then I say, so long, with a firm handshake.  If I clasp his hand with both of mine, or rest my hand on his shoulder, let alone hug him, I'm subject to censure and to putting the Shanti program into  jeopardy: "Limit  your  physical contact with felons, please."    It's a revolving door for me.  "I'm outta here"  at the end of the day, whether or not my footstep is  lighter or my heart heavier; I breathe unfettered air.    Of course, I'm coming back!  What part of fifty-four miles round trip and six to eight hours-twice a month-isn't worth it?

  Worth.  A measure of value for me..  I  cannot fathom a man's imprisoned ways.  But he returns, and greets me with a smile (although he may wait with it until unobserved in our room).  A smile: with its own redemptive  power.  And to this I might add  the last line from  Eliot's "The Wasteland": " Shantih   Shantih  Shantih ".

Frederick Bindel, Shanti Volunteer


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