In February of 2103, I wrote a letter to a prison inmate named Dennis. It was an introduction and a note of encouragement for a man who was six years into a life sentence for drug trafficking, gun possession and murder. The letter was short and to the point. I dropped it in the mail not knowing what would happen. What would the response be? Days and weeks went by, no response. Months passed and still nothing. It has now been 16 months since that letter was sent and I still wonder if it was received, read, processed, and/or appreciated. Is Dennis’ life being transformed in prison? I will never know.
That letter forced me to step outside of my comfort zone. It was something completely new for me at the time. I had never had a desire to talk to, empathize with, or help someone who was convicted of a crime. I will admit that I have lived most of my life with a “lock them up and throw away the key” attitude. Criminals were criminals regardless of the crime. I wanted them to be put away and suffer all consequences. That day in February of last year I realized that my attitude was very short-sided and unfair. People make mistakes. We must offer grace. Change can take place and second chance should be granted. I am not perfect. I have made many mistakes in life (too many to be counted). I have been given second, third, and fourth chances. I have been forgiven. I have been helped. My goal is to pay that forward. I want to live my life that way. I want to help, and impact, anyone that I can.
This week, I wrote another letter to a prison inmate. His name is Andrew. He is serving time for drug trafficking, battery, and gun possession in a California prison. Just like the last one, I introduced myself and shared a short bio. I shared scripture and offered a few words of encouragement. Now I wait to see if I get a response. It could take months for that letter to reach his hands and that is okay. I have all of the time in the world.
Our mission to positively impact the lives of other human beings has taken us down many paths. Week after week we volunteer with nonprofits, support special causes, and search for opportunities to help. We have learned to open our eyes and see the opportunities that exist each and every day to make a difference. We know that simple gestures have unlimited potential to change and improve lives. Can writing a simple letter in an effort to communicate with a felon make a difference? I believe that it can. I encourage you to look at yourself in the mirror and challenge your beliefs, your attitudes, and your actions. Are you willing to step outside of your comfort zone in an effort to positively impact the lives of other people? Are you willing to put yourself on a piece a paper and share it with a complete stranger? If you are, DO IT! Visit WriteAPrisoner.com or meet-an-inmate.com and reach out to someone behind bars.