I went to a prison rodeo this weekend which consisted of rodeo events and a craft fair. The rodeo itself is interesting and we enjoyed watching the prisoners participate in the different events.
For me, the most interesting part of the day was interacting with the prison trustees who are selling their items. The rodeo event provides them an opportunity to visit with their families for the whole day versus the regular few hours that are normally allotted. Some families live so far away that the rodeo event is when they make the trip to see their loved ones.
I met several lifers today and heard their stories. Yes I do know that I was only hearing a very short version of their lives, and some or all of it could have been lies, but what stands out in my mind is how positive they were. They spoke in a matter-of-fact way. They committed a crime, they are serving their time, and not one of them acted bitter. Of course they have had years to come to terms with their future, but they had a positive attitude and smiled and seemed to enjoy speaking with us.
One of the saddest moments we witnessed were the prisoners who were not allowed to walk freely through the crowds. These men were inside a large fenced in area, similar to a cage, and were able to sell their items through the fence. A little girl, probably around 4 years old, sat on the table outside of the fence and tried to hold her daddy’s hands through the small openings in the fence. This is how she knows her daddy, through the fence of prison life. It was heartbreaking. You could see the love they have for each other. You could see they have a bond. But you could also see that the little bit of physical contact was not enough for either of them. And it was so sad to witness.
I enjoyed the few minutes that I shared with these men. I admired their paintings and told them how talented they are. Unfortunately it is wasted talent because they are incarcerated for the rest of their lives. I thanked them for their time. I thanked them for sharing their art with me, and sharing their stories. I shook their hands and told them that I offered many prayers for them.
These men are people. They are someone’s son, brother, loved one. They are human beings and deserve to be treated as such. When I spoke with them I didn’t look at the shirt that said prison worker. I looked at them, made eye contact, and respected them as the shop keeper the same as I would if I were speaking with an employee at the mall.
Everyone deserves to be treated with respect. Regardless of the mistakes and bad decisions they have made in their lives.
God bless, and be blessed.