I remember sitting in several jails and each time wondering what I was going to do when I got out. I was comfortable just staying there because the quality of my life outside of jail wasn’t very good. It was a long and very difficult, intricate journey that got me to where I am today. Despite the many challenges I faced, each chapter of my story from victim to survivor to advocate has been marked with community.
Radical community was the catalyst that transformed everything in my life into something better. Everyone that came alongside me and provided guidance and a belief in the power of change made a difference in whether or not I was going to be successful. I couldn’t have done it by myself, I tried that and it never worked. Being part of a community that lifted me up and gave me the opportunity to lift up others has been life-saving.
Rethreaded goes into the jail twice a year as a group to lift the spirits of the women who are incarcerated there. I was able to go with my community on this trip and talk to the women about what happened to me and how I got out. I knew that women were relating to me and my friends because they were nodding their heads when we spoke. They started to feel comfortable with us and open up about themselves and share parts of their story.
One woman in our group said that she was anxious when we first walked in because she remembered what it felt like when she was the one behind bars. She said she started to understand that day why helping others is so important.
We brought in more than just our words; we wanted to give these women hope but also something tangible so they would know they are loved. We brought a list of community resources and an assortment of bagels and cream cheese, orange juice and coffee! These are treats that aren’t usually found in jail, so everyone was really grateful and excited!
We each had a chance to sit down with the ladies while we ate. I had a couple of women tell me things that take courage to say out loud! There is just something so powerful about having shared experiences and how a few words can make someone feel that they are not alone and bring a new hope to their circumstances.
Leaving the jail that day, I was especially glad to be in a position that I was able to leave at will, I didn’t know if I would see or hear from any of the women again but we made new bonds that day. Though it’s bittersweet to make new friends that may not become lasting connections, it feels really good to leave behind a message of hope.