Someone once told me, “I don’t care what you do in your life, whether you choose to be a carpenter, doctor or a bum. I care that you have tools at your disposal so that you are free to make that choice.” Though I lost my way and made terrible mistakes, I am still shaped by those words because wisdom has no expiration date. It was still waiting for me when I became ready to listen.
It makes me think about the men I’m incarcerated with, about the opporunities, or lack thereof, in their lives.
Some were like me. They had choices and futures but got stuck in a bottle or a bag of dope. Lost their moral compass in animal craving and spiritual darkness.
Others seem cursed. Born addicted. Burned with cigarettes. Bones broken. Bodies violated. Spirits shattered. Shuttled from one foster home to the next. Starved of food, comfort and love.
Most were somewhere in between. Limited opportunities and bad choices led them here. Not inevitable but certainly understandable.
I grew up believing I would be a lawyer or a counselor. Many grew up believing they would be dead by 18.
I have been blessed to find teachers, inside and out, who helped me take responsibility for my choices, discover my options and grow into the person I am today.
For years for I have been grateful to teach, mentor and share my experience. I have watched men blossom and change. Others have been unwilling or unable to depart from long-held habits. I can’t control their choice. I can only hope to help them see they have one.
There are days life feels like a tragedy. Other days a comedy. Or a joy. Working with others reminds me I’m not the center of the universe. It keeps self-pity at bay and gratitude near.
Life is not fair. The playing ground is not level. I don’t know how to change that. Instead I wake up each day and try to share the love, support and wisdom that have been so freely given to me so that maybe some day we can all find the freedom to choose.
Jesse Crosson #1086343
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