Pariahs in the Parish
E-Mail   by Russell Day   Bio/Address

    Every Tuesday morning and Thursday afternoon I attend religious discussion groups where half a dozen guys talk about spirituality in their every day lives. We talk about prayer, about Personal insights gained. We share our struggles and successes, and always contemplate our religious philosophies when mulling these things over. We work hard to live and grow by those things we profess, and we do a pretty good job. Here just six or seven inmates trying to follow our hearts, and bring a little purpose to our lives.
    We're a small group of convicts doing our own thing. We're not associated with the traditional services of the prison chaplain. There's no outside clergy or support for our efforts. We do it all ourselves, and that's important to know. it's important because it illustrates the heart-felt commitment of this small handful of men. They have to focus twice as hard to follow their religious beliefs. This group of men has existed for nine years, but this is but one, small example of the men and women in prisons nationwide struggling and growing in their religious beliefs.
    Most people never see their family members or loved ones go to prison. All they see is the monster written about in the paper, or highlighted in news programming. People forget the thing. that happened to these inmate., thing. that led them to crime. Many, in fact most, came from abusive backgrounds, battles with addiction or wrestled with mental illness. They -ere put in a cell and forgotten. There are no monsters as our media portrays, just people, and like any other person, they ca. do good or bad things. Unfortunately, we as a society tend to focus on the bad, and the "people" we've imprisoned become the pariahs of our world.
    Religion is sometimes the only hope these outcasts have. A prison chapel is sometimes the only place of security they can find. I once saw a movie here a town takes refuge in a church from violent storms.. It's the same thing, except the prisoners are the town, and the hatred for them is the storm. For some, Religion takes hold, and this storm calms as they open up and gain valuable insights that transform their lives. This happens for a few, but many begin to feel even more dejected when it seems their prayers go unanswered. Most want to change their bad ways. They ant to feel wanted and loved, as any person would, but prison does little to encourage either of these. Sometimes religion is the only place these things can be touched, never mind claimed. Mother Theresa was well-known for being with the poor and ill, the people nobody else would have anything to do with, people like the prisoners in our prisons. I wish there are more people like Mother Theresa.
    When I first began on my own religious journey eight years ago I didn't know what to expect. I was looking for serenity fro. the insane life I'd lived, from the chaos of the prison system I'd come to know. I studied textbooks and began applying philosophies to my life. There as a lot to overcome. The traumas of living with an alcoholic parent, physical and sexual abuse and much more. Depression, suicide and despair filled my days. Guilt and resentments are heavy burdens. No, eight years later, I have found who I am in my heart. I have friends and family who love me. I've regained the one thing I've always wanted, a little joy in life. I gained this because of the relentless support and encouragement of six convicts, society's scum, fellow pariahs who'd been tossed out and forgotten. I'm fortunate. I'm one of the few. Who will encourage and support all the other men and women in prison cells? Will it be you? I wonder if we only get a handful of people like Mother Theresa every century. I'd like to believe we're all capable to love so openly.
    I've always believed that religion is important to a full and balanced life. It promotes positive direction and moral teaching. that embrace a reverence and love for life. When our prisoners, our outcasts pursue such directions, e as loving people need to support and encourage these efforts. Not all of us may agree with religion, but I believe we can agree that religion gives those who pursue it a positive direction in their lives. Anything positive is worth the investment. It can only help to enrich our society as a whole, and help to bring out the humanity in all of us.

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