Dickie Oppen Jr.



“Work for peace” is a concept that promotes non-violence.
In Seattle, there is a middle school that got tired of all the
signs it had up that young people saw when they walked in
the front door.

They had signs like “Don’t carry weapons,”
” Don’t do drugs,” “No fighting,” “Don’t do this,” ” Don’t do that,”
So, one day, the principal replaced all those signs with two
huge banners.

The first banner said, “At this middle school,
we always practice random acts of kindness.” And, the
second banner said, “This is the safest school in North

Both of these banners were powerful concepts
because they affected the student’s subconscious.

Of course, if it’s the safest school in the world, that means
you wouldn’t dare carry a weapons. And, if this school
Practices random acts of kindness, then you would rarely
hear demoralizing, degrading comments the put-downs
that are so often a part of many schools.

Thus, the signs changed from negative to positive, and
so did the comfort zones of tbe students. Imagine this concept
being applied in a prison setting. Let’s go a step further and
change this from Students to Offenders.

They expand their comfort zones to include safety and
random acts of kindness. If you don’t want someone
put-down, than what do you wan? You want them built up.

So, focus totally on what you want to have happen. I’ve
thought about the t-shirts we offenders wear. They are just
plain white tee shirts.

I have thought about this, we place
a positive affirmation on the front, what a way to get a
positive message out. In prison setting, we would be
working continuously to help live with dignity.

We ive in a globle society. There are no borders. With the
advent of technology, economy, we can’t afford to be
uncomfortable with differences. We need to be comfortble
with the differences and diversity of our work force and society.

Now, what does it mean to be more “comfortable?” My friend
and mentor Mike Drake , teaches the concept of ” Comfort Zone.”
One of the most important things about life is that, whatever
we do, wherever we go, wherever we carry the human spirit,
we try to be comfortable.

We have comfort zone with where we live, with our money,
with our cellmates, with Correctional
Staff, and even with our families. All of us have comfort zones
in many different areas of our lives.

But, sometimes, something happens that puts us out of our
comfort zones, and many people, when they get out of their
comfort zones, want to get back to where they belong. Most
people do this subconsciously. We never really know why
we are out of ourcomfort zones; we just know something
doesn’t feel right.

I feel that comfort zones are also a major issue in the world
of disabities. In the world of disability, the disabled, like any
other person, sometimes build comfort zones around their
disabilities their wheelchairs, beds, crutches, houses, etc.

Every one of us does things to stay were we are
most comfortable. You see, our comfort zones are directly
related to our self-image.

So often, when we build a comfort zone around us,
we create a self-image that matches our
Comfort zone. For example, if in my comfort zone, I get
high and lay cards for money, I am going to seek out
people who do the same. (not that I would) Or , if I work,
go to church, and be pro-social, I will seek out others of
like mind.

And, all of us build an environment of comfort zones
around ourselves. We become comfortable with our
friends, our Counselors, our cellmates, even with
the officers that work in the units.

Wheneverthings change, we are challenged to get out
of our comfort zones. And, by getting out of our comfort
zones, we have one oftwo reactions: we either do
everything we can to get back into where we feel most
comfortable, or we expand our comfort zones, in order
to grow and change.

I want you to try an exercise: Ask someone to put out their
right hand. Then take your right and push against it.
Don’t tell them what you are doing. Just say, “Hold Up
your right hand,” and then push on it.
And automatiically, Subconsciously, the other individual
will push back.

You see, whenever we feel pushed,we always push back.
Whenever we feel threatened, we will either get aggressive
or we slip back into our comfort zones.

If you are physically disabled, use the idea of comfort zones
in your physical therapy, Or in your work environment.
If there is someone around you who is uncomfortable
because you are disabled, work to gradually expand their
comfort zones until they get to know you.

Or, if you are not disabled, work to expand your comfort
zone when you’re around someone who is disabled.
People who have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
or who have been out of touch for some time, will be
out of their comfort zones as well.

One way to build someone’s comfort zone or even their
Awareness of types of disabilities is to hold a special
olympics types of games. This is a challenge for people
who are unaware. This could be done at a school yard
Or a business outing or even the prison yard as an
awareness project.

Within the world of disability, we must also ask where
the leaders are. Often, as people who are disabled become
successful acquire an education, and find proffessional jobs
they become included and we really don’t see them as
disabled, but more as part of everyday life or society.

One of the challenges that I face with this project is to
tell people with disabilities those who are very included
and have accomplished some degree of success is that
we need you, and we need your leadership abilities, to
help others believed in themselves.

Thanks for reading my proposal, I will post more of it in the
next few days. If you would like to comment please write me
at the address below as I dont have anyone monitoring my
blogg at this time.

Dickie Oppen Jr.
DOC #947545


2 replies »

  1. I love your concept. We do need to learn to be comfortable with diversity in our people and our world. The t-shirt idea is amazing.


    • To Tina,

      Thank you for your kind words about the S*HIP PROGRAM.
      This was one of the peaces that inspired me to move forward
      with this project.

      I have done a lot of studies and research on this comfort zone.
      I believe that we can all teach each other. You mentioned yo
      liked the idea of using the white tee shirts as a way to spread
      The positive messages.
      I have a dream of one day being able to spread a positive
      message other then by mouth. And when I heard this school
      was using banners. I to wanted to join in. I came up with the
      idea of using our tee shirts as banner.
      I live in such a negative environment. A hateful environment,
      that all I want to do is be a part of change, a greator solution.
      I don’t find it hard to be kind to someone regardless of their
      Speaking of crimes, I was pulled up recently about where I
      stood on a friend who has a sex beef. I told the guy who
      was asking.
      Would you rather shun a man for his failure or
      Would you rather get to know the man and mentor him
      in changing his thinking? “Mind you he might get out
      and become your neighbor.” He seen my point and has
      since left me to my opinion.
      My whole thought process has changed over the years and
      I know I have a debt to pay and that is with my time. I shall
      do every day the Judge gave me unless the powers that maybe
      decide that I may return to society. But until that day I will
      promote non-violence and help those who are willing to help
      Albert Eienstine once said ” Try not to be a man of success, but
      rather be a man of value.” See anyone can win a 5K race, but
      it takes a man or woman of value to help the last person across
      the finish line.
      I also believe that if society would get involved with corrections
      and reform we would have a greator chance of sucess. l’ll save
      this topic for another day.
      Oh, I almost for got…. Whish me luck I have a meeting with
      the Warden to start the S*HIP PROJECT.
      I have not been this excited since the Seahaws won the
      If you would like to reach me at my e-mail site visit Jpay.com.
      Be kind to one another. In Christ Dick Oppen


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