Saturday, February 9, 2013

That's What Love Really Looks Like

As many of you know, I volunteer at the local county jail.  It started out as a as a substitute position for the ladies who took an Al Anon meeting to the inmates.   The ladies who are selected to participate in the program are lucky to actually benefit from rehabilitation unlike the general population of the jail.  It is an honor for an inmate to be selected.  They are offered classes where they can receive their GED, parenting classes, personal finance classes, various churches take their programs there and there is celebrate recovery, AA, NA, etc. Now, I go every week with the hope of possibly offering a writing class in the future.

I cannot tell you what an education this experience has been for me.  I will say that they feed me when I go.  And I will give you an example.  Last Wednesday was our first class for the new "semester".  It was an entirely new group of girls/ladies.  One thing that you can count on in a new class is that a fair number of the participants will be unable to make eye contact.  The other things that you routinely see is either a lot of self degrading talk or a refusal to accept "what is".

I am lucky.  I have ADD.  In the words of Adrian Monk, "it is both a blessing and a curse."  But, here at the jail, it is a blessing.  Because my brain doesn't always slow down to edit, they get the real honest me.  And, the real blunt, honest me, loves them.  I love them because, I am loved.  I love them because I have always wanted to fight for the underdog.  I love them because of my  Dad used to tell me stories about all of the adults who stood up for him when he was the son of a broke alcoholic.  I know the power of just one person who will care.

I am not naive about it either.  Some will continue on doing business the way they always have.  Others, like my Dad, will become great as God intended.  So going to that jail and being "God's pencil" as Mother Teresa used to say is the greatest high ever.

Last week as one inmate was trying to understand what exactly Al Anon is,  she told me that she really didn't like it that her mom could go there and talk about her, I responded, "well, that's not really my problem."  I went on to say that my answer was not intended to be mean or sassy.  I went on to say that I/her mom, needed to take care of ourselves and allow her/my son the freedom to learn to take care of themselves. 

"It's not my problem" came out before I had the chance to think.  But, when it did, I had every one's attention.  I was able to say things that they needed to hear, like:  "I could not participate one more minute in enabling him because he was killing himself.  I will not be a party to that anymore.  If Al Anon helps your mom to do the hard things to help save your life, it is her right to go there and do what she needs to do.  You make your choices.  She makes hers.  You are worth it.  That's what love really looks like. "

At the end of the class, I had every ones eyes.  Happy Happy Dance!  And, the girl who was mad said, " this is my favorite class" and others chimed in with similar comments.  As they started to leave I told them to wait.  "We give hugs here before we go."  And that is true of every Al Anon meeting I have ever been to but here, like no other place they are given more robustly and received with thankfulness.

Today I say a prayer of thanksgiving for this life and this experience.  I pray for those walking this journey with me.  I pray for my son to stay strong and keep fighting.  I pray for programs like this one to thrive.  And, I say a prayer for Henry who has certainly added to my story even though I never met him.



Annette said...

Oh my goodness...what a difference you are making. What a beautiful story...thanks for sharing that with us. And I love your make your choices, we make ours.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Those girls/ladies are very very lucky to have you! I hope you share more stories about your experiences there!