Tuesday, March 20, 2007

I might need to start another blog

To keep this one on topic, at least for the first paragraph or so, may I shout from the rooftops that I lost two pounds this week?

Hey! I lost two pounds this week!

My waist size has not changed, but I feel like it has, which is almost as good.

The funny thing is that I didn't run for four days, and I didn't track food for two days [or the two days since – it's so easy to get out of that habit!]. So how did the weight loss happen? Who knows? It probably has more to do with what I did the previous week than what I did last week. Meaning next week I'll bounce back up again.

One of my dear, dear friends e-mailed me yesterday and said my dinner behavior the other night sounded "normal." I replied that if it were normal, I wouldn't have to report it. But maybe someday – if I live long enough – eating a few bites of dessert and leaving food on my plate will be unremarkable.
• • •
Now to the reason for today's title.

If you've been reading here for any length of time, you know that I'm a volunteer at Alderson Federal Prison Camp. I would never want to work there – being in a position of power over inmates seems to bring out the worst in most of the staff –
but I love volunteering.

Many groups here in the States are working for sentencing reform – the Drug Policy Alliance, the Sentencing Project and Families Against Mandatory Minimums are a few. Other groups, about which I know less, are involved in more general prison reform – improving conditions in prisons, championing rehabilitation instead of just warehousing, for instance.

Bo Lozoff's mission is to help inmates make the best use of their time while they're locked up, to be present during their incarceration, to create community with other inmates and to prepare themselves for their release by becoming strong, quiet, calm, kind and humble.

I left last night's workshop feeling pretty high, and you can be quite sure that no alcohol or drugs were involved. Bo and his wife, Sita, are the founders of the Human Kindness Foundation, the name of which sounds all new-agey and straight out of the '60s. I may be a child of that generation, but new-agey I'm not.

And yet, who couldn't use a little more human kindness?

In additioning to doing workshops and writing books, Bo is a musician, and he opened his presentation with some lovely original pieces. We then did a good old-fashioned sing-along to Bob Dylan's Knockin' on Heaven's Door.

I was hooked.

A couple of his remarks really made an impact on me. He spent quite a bit of time contrasting our society 50 years ago with the present day:
  • We're "connected" by cell phones and Blackberries and Palm Pilots so that we're never out of touch, and yet we're disconnected from the person sitting across the table from us.
  • The cure for low self-esteem is not high self-esteem; it's humility, or not needing self-esteem at all. [His opinion, and one I share, is that the self-esteem 'curriculum' introduced a generation ago in our schools has pretty much backfired.]
He spent two hours there, not nearly enough time to hear what needed to be heard, but it was a great beginning. As he was getting ready to wind it down, he asked them if they wouldn't almost give their right breasts for a home-cooked meal with their families. Definitely a laugh-and-cry moment. [Prison food sucks.]

He then suggested that the first piece of clothing they buy should be a grey sweatshirt.

You should have heard the protests! Alderson inmates wear grey sweatshirts, grey sweatpants and grey t-shirts every day of their lives. They were just sure they'd be buying hot pink and bright orange their first trip to the mall. Some even said they'd never wear grey, khaki or green again, ever in their lives.

So when they calmed down, he suggested that of all the troubles that landed them in prison, grey wasn't one of them. And he went on to say that while wearing grey, they'd stayed off drugs and been isolated from bad influences and gotten their GEDs and found good, true friends. In fact,
grey had served them pretty well.

It was A Moment. One I'll never forget. You could see the wheels turning, and I'd bet money that several of these women will be buying grey sweatshirts when they finally leave Alderson behind.

One area of prison reform that doesn't get much attention is transitioning back into the community. I believe the government is attempting to implement programs on the inmate side, but no one I know of is working on our end of it. Sentences are never finished. Inmates are always ex-cons, subject to different rules about jobs and voting and perceived by society as not quite up to snuff. The way our justice system works makes this inevitable. I'd like to live long enough to see this change, but I doubt that will happen.

Thirty-nine days until race day.


Grumpy Chair said...

Congratulations on the weight loss!

I really enjoyed reading this post. I save your blog to read last and always walk away from the computer feeling good, motivated and wondering what can I do, to help others.

Connie said...

I agree with GC, and I congratulate you on the 2 lb loss. I also enjoy hearing about the ladies from Alderson. They're not the only ones that need to buy grey sweatshirts as a reminder!