So, there I was, months later, spending sometime one Friday afternoon with our Books Behind Bars project (we have a book program in which we send mindfulness and spiritually based books inside our nations jails and prisons) when I found myself pulling out Fleet Maul's Book "Dharma in Hell" to fill a request from the current letter held in my hands. Staring at Fleet's book, I was immediately reminded of Dennis, one of our Path of Freedom participants in the medium security prison here in RI. I could still hear his voice as he made a simple request months back:
"Madrone, is there any way possible that I could get a copy of Fleet's book? I don't have any money, but it would mean the world to me" he said. I had totally forgotten time and time again.
So, I did what any of us would have done in that moment, I grabbed two books, one for the woman whose letter I held in my hands from a prison somewhere in the middle of Utah, addressed the book sized manila envelope, stamped it, put the book in, dropped it on the outgoing box and then took the other one for Fleet Maull to sign, during which I went and searched my notes for Dennis' address.
There it was, scribbled in the top right corner of my yellow notebook paper. I sent it off, wishing him an easeful summer (our regular programs do not run during the summer, though we are running an advanced class starting next week).
Just like me, I'm sure you would have been surprised when you came into work that next week to find a letter sitting on your desk:
Prison Dharma Network
11 South Angell St # 303
Providence, RI 02906
When I looked up in the left hand corner, sure enough, it was from Dennis. And it wasn't just a simple "Thank you" letter - it was one of the most uplifting combination of words I've read in quite a while..this coming from someone living in prison:
"...Well, finally spring has sprung and I'm enjoying the warm sunny days and all the gifts that God has blessed me with. I'm so thankful for everything in my life. You didn't have to send me Fleet's book, it made me feel so good inside that my eyes started to water, I knew someone had thought of me...."
It graced my heart to read his words and hear such gratitude - this coming from someone who is locked up. It really made me reflect on the countless little things in life that I can constantly find reason to complain about: "...there's too many bugs, I wish I had more pairs of earrings to match my clothes, I don't want salmon, I want chicken for lunch today, I don't feel like driving to the post office...blah blah blah. As I'm sure many of us can relate to, our complaints can be endless, really. Or, we can try to put our lives in context and recognize the tremendous privilege and opportunity many of us every single day of our lives.
After reading Denis' letter, I was reminded of what we all have, and what so many of us don't. I was reminded that the attitude we carry into any situation is always a choice. That's today. Right now.
We'll see about tomorrow...
Until next time,