Friday, September 19, 2014


As many of you know, I work with the women at the county jail.  I do a couple of things.  I facilitate a writing class and I work with those who are within six months of release to help prepare them for re-entry. The writing class is a very loose exploration into awareness and communication.  But, everyone seems interested in looking in.

One of the young ladies was very closed off; private.  It was like pulling teeth to get her to write anything.  One class, I read a chapter from "Tattoos on the Heart" a book written by Jesuit priest, Greg Boyle.  Father G ( as the homies call him) started the largest gang rehabilitation program in the country.  His first chapter is called God I Guess. 

In that chapter he tries to challenge the perception that God is a God of anger, disgust and punishment.  Instead he uses a number of stories to explore the depth of love that he has for each of us in spite of our short comings.  He tries to express a love that most of us cannot fathom in clear understandable terms.

After reading that chapter, I gave them this assignment.  In light of Father Greg's words, how do you think that God sees you?

The next week, they went around the room reading their essays.  When I got to J.W. she simply said, "Mine is short."
"That's okay."  I said.
"Blind".  She replied.
"Blind?  Do you mean that you are blind to God or a Higher Power or do you mean that he is blind to you?"  I asked.
"I don't even know.  Both."

For a while, these were the simple utterances that I got from her until last week.  Last week I gave them each a story starter.  A story starter is just a sentence that they must expand upon and they have total freedom with how they will take it. 

J.W.'s sentence was this:  'Since the wind was howling, she was even more afraid.'

And this is what she what she wrote.  She has given me her permission to share it with you.

Since the wind was howling, she was even more afraid.  Other than the tiny candle burning, it was pitch dark in the desolate house.  How long she had been in hiding, only making an appearance long enough to keep up her front, she wasn't sure.

Monsters with razor sharp teeth, reaching out for her, danced across the walls.  Suffocating, she sank down lower into the corner.  She took another deep drink from the bottle and closed her eyes.  Warmth spread throughout her body, once again fighting off the bone numbing cold that had settled upon her years ago.

Time after time, year after year, this continued.  She dug herself deeper into despair, wearing a mask to cover up her pain.  She hid from the monsters and from herself.  Eventually, no mask could hide the misery she felt inside.  All the monsters that she was running from caught up to her, swallowing her whole.

Scared, angry, alone, lost and weary with no way out in sight.  Rock bottom.  She had a problem and was forced to face it.

One day she was in her dark place, with barely even a flicker of light left of the candle, when instead of taking another drink, she decided to pour out the bottle. 

The flame started to grow.  Day after day, the larger the flame became.  It grew and grew until the whole abandoned house was engulfed in flames.  The monsters were being faced and they ignited in the fire and died away.  She climbed out of the pit.

She opened her eyes and was able to breathe again.  Stepping up to the window, she looked to her future.  The bright sunshine filled her heart and she was no longer cold. 

I realize the wind will always continue to howl.  Sometimes it will be louder than others, but I am no longer afraid to face it.

Okay, as she was reading, I looked like Simon Cowell whose mouth hung open when Susan Boyle belted out that first big note.  I was so amazed at not only the thought and writing but the bravery that it must have taken for her to write this piece. 

This is a first draft!  She's working on it a bit and we are going to try to submit it to AA's  Grapevine magazine. 

I just had to share.  Do you see why I'm blessed when I go there?

Praying...always for all of us.


Annette said...

Oh my beautiful. Thank you and please thank HER for allowing you to share that with us. Would any of your women like a pen pal? The old fashioned kind. You can pair me up with someone if you think its a good idea. I can see how being there would be such a blessing to you. Its like me with my dying clients... it is such an honor to be there with them and watch their journey unfold.

Hattie Heaton said...

Annette, thank you for asking. I will ask them on Thursday!

Syd said...

This is an amazing piece of writing that she did. I am glad that she took off the mask and was able to share her most private thoughts. That took a lot of courage.