A few days ago I was sitting in a grove of trees, when a woman approached and asked if she could join me. I welcomed her to my sanctuary and she said, “I’m having a really hard time, and I didn’t know where to go.”  I told her, “This is the right place to be.  Do you need a listening ear, or would you rather just enjoy the peace and silence that’s here?” She started to cry and told me that she was losing her children.  She said, “I’ve been in prison for three years, and I still have seven to go. I haven’t seen my children in three years, and I just miss them so much!” I said, “I can’t imagine how hard that would be, I’m so sorry.” She continued, “My children live in a good foster home, and the family wants to adopt them.” I said, ” It’s a blessing that they are in a good home.” Then I shared a deeply personal experience with her.  An experience that’s very dear to my heart. I told her, “I personally believe adoption can be a sacrifice of love, and a privilege to participate in such a noble experience.” She said, “My rites are being terminated, so I don’t really have a choice.” I told her, “You do have a choice, you always have a choice; You can decide to be bitter and angry, or you can do your best to improve yourself, and send love and comfort to your children.” I said, “I believe we are connected to our children spiritually, that everything we do effects them, even if we aren’t physically with them.” She smiled and said, “Thank you, I’m a Christian, and I think your right.” She said, “I feel weak right now, because I believe in Jesus; I shouldn’t be having such a hard time with this.” I told my new friend that believing in Jesus doesn’t make it easy, to only makes it possible; He gives us the hope that all will work out in the end. I said, “It takes courage to feel your pain, a lot of courage!” When I left the woman thanked me, and said, ” Portia, I believe this was a divine appointment; I’m grateful you were here.” I smiled and said, “You are brave; thank you for opening up to me.”

Later that day, a woman came into the CRC(career resource center) looking for a typewriter to do some legal work. She is new at our prison, and told me she is fighting her case. I asked her how long she’s been in prison, and she said, “Ten years! I went to trial and got 25 years; I won’t rest until my judge and prosecutors suffer like I have.” I said, “Really, will that make you happy?” She said, “How can I be happy? I’m completely innocent, and I’m in prison!” I said,” Many people that are innocent find peace, and happiness in prison. She said, “I want them to pay for what they’ve done to me; I won’t let them get away with this.” I said, “Well, I hope at the end of your journey you find happiness.” Then she said, “Do you have children?” I said, “Yes, I have five children.” She said, “That’s why it’s easier for you, I don’t have children, they robbed me of that too.” I said, “Oh my dear woman, you are talking about sacred things now, and I’m afraid you don’t realize what you’re saying. Leaving my children to come to prison was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do! Not a day does by that my heart doesn’t ache for my children; every time I see my sweet 8 year old little girl on video, and she asks me when I’m coming home, my heart breaks all over again.” The woman said, “How am I supposed to be happy in prison, my fiance left me, I don’t have children, and I don’t want to get a girlfriend.” I told her, “There is peace, and happiness to be found in prison, when we humble ourselves.” Then I excused myself from the conversation and decided to go outside and take a walk.

As I was walking around the park, I saw one of my co-workers sitting on the lawn, and she asked me to join her. She overheard my conversation, and seemed thoughtful about what happened. I felt uncomfortable that I became so emotional, and started to apologize; In a very sweet tone she said, “Portia, I’m proud of you; what you said in there was very spiritual, but in a private way. You shared from your heart, and it was perfect.” I told my co-worker that I was angry when I first came to prison, but I’ve found peace through forgiveness. She said, “You’ve taken responsibility for your mistakes, and made peace with the harm that was done to you; you are free Portia, and it’s beautiful!” My co-worker is one of the most competent women I know here (that includes the staff) so her words were a great comfort to me. However, I would give high marks to the staff at Waseca; truthfully, they have the best CO’s(correctional officers) of any prison I’ve been to(except maybe Mr. Mendoza and Mr. Scott from Dublin, they were the cream of the crop!) I’ve been to my fair share of prisons and jails, so I think I’m entitled to an opinion when it comes to prison staff:) I sat out on a picnic table at the park today and watched two CO’s Playing softball with the inmates; the women were laughing and cheering and it made my heart swell. I thought, “How grateful I am to be here! This is such a beautiful place.” I don’t know the outcome of my motion yet, but I will let you all know as soon as I hear something. I’m normally not a very patient person, so the peace I feel right now is such a blessing! I have no doubt that your prayers have been a big part of that. Thank you for your support, it means more to me than you will ever know! I pray this part of my journey will end soon, and I will be reunited with my loved ones, but until then, I’m grateful to feel peace in federal prison