We invite you to share your holiday messages of experience, strength, love, hope and faith. Please email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will post them on our blog at prisonist.org/prisonist-the-blog and email them to our families, friends, neighbors, colleagues and fellows. Please feel free to forward them to anyone who is in need this holiday season. Below are a few holiday messages to get us started. Wishing you and your loved ones a happy & healthy holiday season. – Jeff Grant
THE GIFT OF NOTHING.
At Christmastime, my twenty year old daughter Skylar likes to read one of her favorite holiday books from childhood “The Gift of Nothing”. It is the story of little Mooch trying to find a Christmas present for his best friend Earl, but Earl has EVERYTHING. Mooch racks his brain and searches high and low and cannot find the perfect gift. Finally, he realizes, the very, very best present of all can’t be wrapped and put in a box, it’s NOTHING. Nothing…but time together, a hug, laughter, friendship, empathy, love.
For those of us whose lives have been impacted by indictments, incarceration and the attending complications, it can feel as though we’ve lost EVERYTHING, it can feel as though we have NOTHING to give at Christmastime or anytime. But it’s a funny thing about kindness, friendship, love and compassion, the more we give, the more it seems there is to give, and from what had seemed to be an existence of scarcity, a life of true abundance begins to emerge. It’s a feeling, and it’s real.
When I have the blessing of spending time with Babz, Joe, Iyabo, Scott, Joshua, Lynwood, Jacquie, Doug and Jeffrey, just to name a few, the room is filled to overflowing with NOTHING and my heart is so full, full of truth, companionship, warmth, encouragement. I feel as if I have EVERYTHING.
As I sit writing this blessed Christmas Eve morning, there is a dusting of snow across the paddock outside my window, my kitten is purring on the chair beside me, my husband wished me a good morning with a big, warm hug. I know that God loves me and that I love him. Everything. Nothing.
Wishing you each the gift of nothing, today and everyday through out the new year. With love. – Lynn Springer
Tomorrow, most of the world will pause and pay homage to the Christ child. As a priest in the Old Catholic Church I recognize the power and beauty of this season, sacred event and holy time of the year. One that has endured the test of time; a narrative that has lived on for over 2000 years. A celebration that proclaims the “good news” and offers hope and strength to countless people.
I wonder how many of us stop and think that we are celebrating someone, Jesus, who was a convicted criminal and one who was sentenced to death. That “passion” story that we read during Easter doesn’t really talk about the failure of the justice system or even society when they make a mistake. When they fail to see the good in people or the possibility of radical change and love. The story, like the man Jesus, is about transformation. The theory is that second chances are supposed to happen and that forgiveness, hope and resurrection was the point of that truly terrible event.
However, tomorrow it all about the birth of Christ. A new beginning and a fresh and wonderful start. Some of us, if not all of us, know a little about failure, loss, and even being a criminal. You see, most of us, if not all of us, have made mistakes. Some of us have learned a great deal from those and have endured great pain and suffering. Very much like Christ after only 33 years from that magical birth in Bethlehem.
Imagine that birth! A mother who was so scared because she was pregnant without being married. Disenfranchised by family and friends and no place to go or stay. A birth that was so common that few at the time even paid attention. I wonder if today that some of us are still too busy and are not paying attention. I am honored to be part of a wonderful ministry of Returning Citizens. People who once had great power and wealth, a force to be reckoned with. Some of us, myself included, probably didn’t pay much attention to this “birthday” idea. But now every Monday night we talk, pray, share our stories and tell a narrative of hope, change, and redemption. Most of us have started anew and are doing important things again, but for very different reasons. Even though we are making the world a better place again, most of us haven’t learned the simple idea of forgiveness, especially for ourselves. I am hoping for a miracle…..that we can change this during our Christmas season.
When I celebrate Mass I am reminded each time of this great gift and season. When we pour the water into the Chalice, every Priest recites an ancient prayer; “Through the mystery of this water and wine, may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled Himself to share in our humanity.” The God we celebrate tomorrow became human so that all of us can become divine. With our broken and fragile lives, even amidst the sorrows and losses, we can be the message of hope, joy and love. Indeed, that is a message of humanity and our divinity. The message, and the greatest gift, is that we can all be a divine Christmas miracle. May God love you all! – the Rt. Rev. Dr. Joseph Ciccone, St. Joseph’s Mission Church, Progressive Catholic Church
My Beloved Once Friends, but now Family,
From Disdain to Distinction:
I admire you.
I want you to know that I too am a person that paddles a solitary canoe during this Holiday Season.
I want you to know that I too am a person that once lived life inside of a correctional institution.
I want you to know that I too know and comprehend what it means to find all seaworthy vessels otherwise occupied.
I want you to know that I too have stood on the shore of many a strong stream and mighty, roaring river and wondered how in the world I would find the resources, or, muster the strength to ford, let alone cross them.
I want you to know that I found a single, rickety, time-and-water-swollen canoe.
The canoe, long-ago abandoned, simply arrived.
I did not summons it. And I most certainly did not build it.
The canoe arrived.
Weather-beaten and abandoned by those who once cherished it as a prized-possession.
I rescued the canoe.
Or, maybe the canoe rescued me.
I rid its moss and sanitized its mold-ridden bottom.
I patched its holes.
I sealed its leaks.
I repaired its sodden twin-paddles.
And then, one, fine, brisk morning, I launched its new, maiden voyage.
I sat in my new canoe.
I tested its buoyancy.
I pointed its stem towards the center of the stream.
And I began paddling.
I admire you my fellow paddler.
This Holiday Season, find a discarded and disregarded canoe.
Turn its disdain.
Return its distinction.
Some very strong and potent potion will do the same for you.
Cherish This Day! – Steve Bonenberger
It’s Christmas Day! Thank God I haven’t missed it! ~ Charles Dickens
As we grow older, it’s entirely possible to lose a lot more than our belief of Santa Clause. Through our trials and tribulations, we can forget how to have fun. Whole summers go by without a single picnic, a swim, or a baseball game. Birthdays become nothing more than restaurant dinners. What a far cry from our youth when looking forward to a good time and then wringing every drop of pleasure out of it was what we knew best!
Christmas is one of the occasions that many of us forget how to celebrate. “Christmas is too commercial,” we say as an excuse for our crankiness. “Christmas is for children.” Yet for all the hustle and bustle that surround the holidays, there is also much that is lovely and inviting of spiritual growth. The warmth on so many faces, the increased sense of caring and giving, the gathering of families, the beauty of the music – all are invitations to turn away from worry and lift up our hearts.
We don’t have to become like Scrooge just because we’re not children anymore. The wonder of Christmas is available to all comers. Let us not miss it.
So, let’s put our worries aside for this day, enjoy our surroundings and take a deep breath, breathing in the fresh air. Take a moment today to be thankful for this community of beautiful, strong people that have blessed our hearts because of our various obstacles of life. You have all personally helped me deepen my capacity for enjoyment by your friendship and constant support.
Raising my glass, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! As we move into 2019 together only incredible things can possibly be waiting for us! – Jacqueline Polverari