Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Community- A lesson from Prison

Who can I confied in? Who will I allow to speak into my life? Who will say those things that I need to hear?
Community is a concept many of us like much more than the reality. From my own experience as long as things are good we enjoy people, we enjoy others speaking into our life for encouragement or helping with wisdom. We like it when we are affirmed that we are making the right choices.
What happens when we aren't making the right choices? Being misguided is somethign that we as humans are very good at. It is very easy for us in our minds to convince ourselves that something is a great concept when reality it is not.
I have had some "great" ideas and concepts in my lifetime, great inventions, ideas that could save the world. No I have not won the nobel peace prize and the no one is calling me for advice on my vast knowledge. Of course these ideas were not great but I could not see that for myself. If left on my own my misguidings could lead to my ruin. I have grown to appriciate the wisdom and bluntness that many of those in my circle of friends have given me. It is not always fun and there have been some rough conversations through those times.
It is because of my experience in this area that I have encouraged the men in my class I teach in prison to try to find some others to find community with. In my teaching at prison I have brought this subject up numerous times only to be told that while in prison you keep to yourself and only tell what information needs to be told. If men in ISP were only staying there for a few months I could understand (I don't fully understand and this may just be one of my "great" ideas.but this is home for the next 20+ years of life for the majority of them.
I am pretty passionate about community and last week when I was talking through living a life of faith, I was asked about how I did it? I told them the gist of the above and that I had real hard time doing it on my own.
One gentleman about 40 said "man, I want to do that. But all my life I have choosen the wrong people to trust. I grew up on the streets and the people I trusted help me in making bad descisions and now I am here."
This other inmate said "when I was on the streets I use to blow everyone else off and not listen to anyone. I would punch people if they said something I didn't want to hear, but now after being in the joint for 15 years. I have allowed a few guys to speak into my life and it has helped me so much.
Looking around the room it was almost like this inmate had found the holy grail. Everone else in the class was glued to his every word. They wanted and needed this type of community but were so scared to trust.
I don't understand prison life, but I do understand the fear and not wanting to open up oursleves to others. The questions those men asked last week were not unique to prison but rather questions we ask ourselves many times. It was just a different context than most of us experience.
I had lunch with a guy last week, who told me I don't have any friends. I am in management in the business I work in, and I don't know many other people. Is this common? Probably a lot more than we realize. Community takes work,and sometimes we are too scared or too prideful to allow it to happen.