I woke up this morning with two dogs sleeping next to me. I had car keys waiting for me to grab, gas in my car to get me to the trails I run, and Kashi cereal and milk for breakfast before I left for my prison visit.
I didn’t mention that I wore a bright yellow shirt today, I had makeup to go on my face, nice tennis shoes to put on with my fairly new blue jeans, and a cheap hair tie to pull my hair back in a ponytail.
Oh yeah, I chewed cinnamon Orbit chewing gum and drank vitamin water zero on my drive to the prison while I listened to the radio and talked on my IPhone. I am so blessed.
NASHVILLE PRISON VISIT
I just walked in from my prison visit and I’m thinking about these women I just saw and I’m thinking about me. Yes, they are behind bars because they committed or have been charged with committing some sort of a crime, but they are human and have a heart that needs to be loved just like I do.
I was thinking about all of the things that I have in my life. All of the things I noted above are just things from my every day life that I often take for granted. It takes experiences like the one I had this morning to remind me that the Kashi cereal, the vitamin water, the car I drive, and the cheap hair tie I wear are gifts to me. These women walk into the Bible study in their blue or orange jumpsuits with nothing but their ID number and their Bibles. They also walk in with lonely hearts, but more often than not, are ready to hear the good word and be reminded that they have a second chance in this life. These women are mothers, sisters, daughters, wives, girlfriends, etc. Most have been dealt a difficult path from the very beginning of their lives. They have faced all kinds of abuse, have had drug/alcohol addictions, and have lived/worked on the streets for long periods of time. Each woman has a different story and every prison I visit, I eagerly wait for her to open up to me about her pain so that I can hopefully choose a song that might help her know she is not going through this life alone. My hope is that when I leave the prison, they know that they always have God and they always have people praying for them to find their purpose. And, that while they are in there, they find healing in the silence of those four walls that they now call home. I pray that through that silence, they are able to hear the positive voices that were once covered up by the voice of sin and that they can learn to live their lives according to the law of God and the law of God is only love.
I sit in amazement as these women so boldly volunteer to read the scripture out loud to the group. Tears come to my eyes when I hear them struggle over how to pronounce words like “capture” and “spiritual”. I wonder why I was afforded to be educated and these women were left to find their way on the streets.
In this moment, I am also reminded how fortunate I am that I had an amazing Mother to guide me in making the right decisions so that I am not behind those prison walls. If Mama had not been my guide and loved me so unselfishly, who’s to say I wouldn’t have made the same mistakes these women have made. Most of them have been searching the streets most of their lives for that unselfish love and most have come up short. Today, I came to the revelation once again that they are not that different from me and that’s why I feel it’s my purpose to get out of the bed on Saturday morning and go sing to them.
The prison is divided into sections called “pods”. Different pods hold different types of inmates. Some inmates are awaiting trial for serious charges, some inmates are just waiting to be transferred to another prison, and some are in a particular pod because they are all going through a drug/alcohol rehabilitation program.
The pod we went into today is one I’ve been to before and we actually meet in their kitchen. You would have no idea this room was a kitchen unless someone told you because there is no stove, no refrigerator and no sink. There are only tables where the women’s meals are prepared and distributed. I am assuming that’s what happens on these tables but I’ve never been there at “chow” time so I don’t know for sure. The kitchen also has a strong scent of Comet or Ajax or bleach…I couldn’t really pin point the exact origin of the smell.
Nonetheless, this room has some of the best acoustics for singing that I have ever experienced in my life. I didn’t have a guitar or instrument but I had the walls of this prison kitchen that carried my songs into even one of the other pods. I don’t think it’s any accident that we have Bible study in that kitchen. It’s the most perfect place; these women are being nourished by the word of God in a kitchen!! I feel strongly that God wants the women to hear the words to these songs and these particular walls provide an ambient sound reminiscent of the old records I love. You know the ones where they placed a microphone in the middle of a room and everyone just played and sang and they captured all of the room noise and the sounds kind of echoed off the walls? Well, that’s what this room was like.
For security purposes, I cannot bring a guitar or any type of instrument in the prison. So today, I printed out the lyrics for both “Somebody Does” and “Stronger” to take to the women. I wanted them to be able to keep the words to my songs after I left. Then, they could refer back to them if they wanted/needed to.
I passed out the words to the songs and asked everyone to look at “Somebody Does”. The women had just been talking about how they feel alone and so ashamed of the reasons they are behind bars. One inmate told us about her son that was about to enter college. She smiled the biggest smile in the world when she spoke of him. She is so proud of him, but she is dealing with the fact that he is not proud that she is his mother. She cried as she told us how much she missed him and how she hasn’t heard from him since she was locked up. She has attempted to write to him but he will not acknowledge her.
The group talked about her situation for a while and when we were finished I told them that no matter how alone they feel, there’s someone out there that’s praying for them and hoping for a second chance for them and for the life they’ve always dreamed about having. Then, I started to sing “Somebody Does”. I wrote this song for my own reasons but as I was singing it, I felt like I wrote it for each one of them. They never looked up at me or made eye contact with me but I could see they were listening because tears streamed down the face of each woman.
I watched the women for most of the song but had to look away when I could feel that I was about to lose it too. I didn’t want to mess this song up. I wanted them to hear every word, so I did my best to hold it together. When we were finished one woman said, “I know I’m going to hear that song again one day. Thank you so much for that.”
I don’t know if I have ever enjoyed singing that song so much as I did today in the prison. It took on a whole new meaning for me that made it so special. Now when I sing that song, I will always think about that kitchen and those tears. “Somebody Does” now has a deeper purpose for me.
Finally, one of the other inmates told the group that she felt like she just couldn’t take it anymore in there. She felt almost like she was losing her mind a bit in her prison cell. She said all she could do was cry and sleep. Her story led me to ask them to look at the lyrics for “Stronger”. I sang that song, we held hands, said The Lord’s Prayer, hugged each other goodbye and the women walked back to their cells and I headed towards the front gates.
On my way out of the kitchen, a woman named Georgia from another pod came out and said “I heard you in their singing and I loved that song. Will y’all come back and pray with our side too one day?” I told her that we would definitely try and that I would remember her in my prayers. Those kitchen walls carried that song all the way in there. That was work from above.
As I walked out of the prison, I walked through so many secured doors. Each had to be unlocked by different guards from that particular area of the prison. On our way out, we also walked by the showers and I could see a guard standing outside the shower watching over each woman as she bathed. That broke my heart.
Then, I walked back to the front and was given back my driver’s license and all of my belongings. As I walked out the glass door to the prison it began to pour down rain. I ran in the rain to my car and freedom never felt so great to me. The rain was so perfect. It was like I was washed clean in the rain…almost like a baptismal.
I left with a heart full of hope today. I hope those women find peace and that they feel love in their lives. I also left with a confirmation to myself. I am definitely living my purpose on this earth. I am meant to sing at fairs, festivals, theatres, listening rooms, churches, bars, clubs, arenas, and prisons. I am meant to take my music everywhere and I hope that it reaches whoever might need it that day. I am very blessed to know my purpose and I thank you all on this page for all of your support. That support allows me to do this each and every single day.
God Bless You!!