Preparing our hearts for the Prince of Peace

(Written by Susan Crane, December 22, 2011, Dublin Federal Correctional Institution)

There’s a lot of kindness here in prison, but there will be a relief when the holiday season is over, at least for me.

Many of the women are having a hard time; Christmas seems to be a major time marker in our lives.  “I won’t be here next Christmas” a few women say, and the silence of the others says, “I’ll be here for 11 more Christmases”, or for the lifers… a real silence, and I’m not sure what they think.

There is always a hope of getting out as a result of something that might develop. For example, we hear there’s a bill in congress that would release anyone in federal prison who has done half their time if they were here for a nonviolent crime, and are over a certain age, maybe 65.  Many women are getting immediate release for the cocaine/crack equalization resentencing law that passed.

But, all that to say, Christmas is a hard time to be here for most of the women, and of course it’s a time of missing family gatherings, or what the culture tells us we should be feeling.

Yesterday Alan, from the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, came for the regular thursday meditation. I like when he comes, we sit for a good half hour, and then walk in silence. It is a very sweet time; I find myself looking forward to it. He asked us each to talk about how we were feeling, about the holiday season and so on. After the silence, after the trust that’s built up, it was a good sharing.

I shared that in my tradition Advent is a time of preparing our hearts for the compassion and nonviolence of Jesus, and that the Advent readings ingup to the coming of the Prince of Peace help us with that preparation, helping us open our hearts so that we can receive that deep peace.

There is, however, an understandable tendency to not live life here, but to live life looking forward to what will happen when released. I try to do my time realizing that this is part of my life; no matter where I am, our purpose is to love others, be compassionate, do what we were created to do.

Of course I fail all the time, but that’s no surprise.

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