Going Behind The Fence – Year Four

It’s my fourth year volunteering with Truth Be Told and my third year facilitating Pay It Forward, the monthly ongoing class at the Lane Murray Unit. Every time I go up, I ask myself: Does it still matter? Do I still feel energized? Do I love it? The answer is Yes. Yes. Yes.

This month, we talked about where we would like to travel and played hilarious games that made us laugh and laugh. Some women are in the parole review process; some women have been denied parole again; Some women won’t see parole for another twenty years. I know that in the scheme of things, this class is pretty insignificant but the persistence of going, of connecting, of loving and serving these women matters the world to me. (March)

Last night our leader asked, “Who are you listening to?” Many of the women said, “God. Because God asks me to look forward and Satan tells me to look back at my mistakes.” Then one woman said, “I try to listen to God but I can’t find God after I hang up the phone with my grandson or when they’re gone after a visit and I can’t hug them any more. It’s empty. I don’t feel God. I feel empty. I hear my Grandma though. I hear her telling me to fake it til I make it.” (May)

Last night was the last class of Session Five. The warden said yes to our bringing cupcakes and soda for a little graduation celebration. I sprang for the gorgeous cupcakes at Central Market. The ones with strawberries and blueberries and swirls of buttercream. One woman squealed, “Pretty Food.” Another said, “Strawberries. That’s all I’m gonna say: Strawberries.” (June)

Last night, the leader asked all of us this question: what has been your greatest adventure? I heard stories about hitch hiking from Ohio to Montana, entertaining little ones through a blackout, downhill skiing with a fear of heights, ghosts visiting in dreams, a wild canoe trip from San Marcos to Martindale. As I drove home, I was smiling. These women are so much more than their crimes. (November)

Year Four behind the fence ends. Some days, I think, Oh Lindsey, you are a just a do-gooder white woman. What you are doing doesn’t matter. Maybe. Maybe not. And then I think, “I am not here to be friends or to feel good about myself. I go because I believe in the power of human connection and my presence and commitment will make a difference. Some day.”