morning, after 31 years in prison, including 18 years in solitary confinement,
Jaime was out having breakfast with his aunt at a Denny’s Restaurant in
Lancaster, CA. He didn’t own much but he had the keys to a new apartment. I
wondered to myself what Jaime thought as he walked into that new apartment. He
told me that he was so excited that all four of the keys ended up on the floor -
he wasn’t sure how to use them. It had been 31 years since he has had keys that
before, we had been sitting in a Level Four Prison, and now we were eating
Buffalo Wings together. The waitress intuited that Jaime had just gotten out of
prison, so she was attentive to our group and served up a platter that included
shrimp, cheese sticks, and even some lobster; all of it on the house. He was
all smiles and even took some pictures with the waitresses.
I suppose it
would be easy to chalk up that meal to just something ordinary on a Wednesday
night in the month of March, in an ordinary restaurant, in an ordinary city.
But looking back on that meal, I believe something extraordinary had occurred.
Jaime is a symbol of what our work is about; he is a symbol of what JRJI has
been doing in the prison system during these last 10 years. His happiness is
manifested in the long journey of doing his own inner work. That simple meal
was a resume of what we do: helping prisoners participate in the hard work of
forgiveness and transformation.
As I write
this, we are surrounded with fear and some panic from the coronavirus pandemic.
Although this has only been going on for a few weeks, people are acting as if
it is the end of the world. As you walk around during these days of the virus,
there are no church services, no movies, no embraces, no shaking hands, no
gatherings of more than 10 people. Everything is different.
now, everything is different for Jaime. I think of how different Jaime’s life
is now after 31 years of not having any of those things that we take for
granted. Jaime is one person whose life changed in prison, and now it has
changed even more since his release. It seems that the world as we know it is changing
all of us as well: from something that we were so comfortable with, to the
uncertainty, the fear of the unknown. Will this moment bring out the best in us
or the worst of who we are?
Jaime brought back some cheese sticks to his new
apartment. Everything is delicious for him.Everything is new.