Losing the Shell
John Snyder is a volunteer helper with the Peace Education Program at the Dominguez State Jail in San Antonio, Texas. He has been impressed by the way inmates have been able to transform themselves while attending this course and has sent TPRF this article as an example of what he sees.
About a month or so ago a new inmate joined the Peace Education Program at the Dominguez State Jail. He had been a gang member, was withdrawn, and appeared very serious and intense. He would never speak when it came time for opinions and expressions. I figured that if he ever did, what he might say would be very heavy. Finally, one day when asked, he agreed to speak. He struggled to get going. The first words out of his mouth were, "Thank you for this class. It has really helped me." I was stunned.
The next week, when called on, he spoke again. He thanked the volunteers for presenting the class. Then he went on to thank us for taking the time out of our lives to come out and help him. That night as I was leaving, he called out and told me to be sure to drive home safely. Watching him break out of his shell has been nothing short of amazing.
At our next class, he spoke once more and said that he had just received a letter from his mother. She had recently come to visit him at the prison. In that letter, she told him that she had once again seen the child she used to know. He said that he was not sure that he could see such a change in himself. Another volunteer spoke up and said, "I can see that change too." For myself, not only could I see it, but I hardly recognized him as the same person that had started the class.
As the next few classes went by he continued to open up and express his feelings. We had some new inmates come into the class, and we asked him if he would explain to everyone what the class was all about. What he shared was a combination of the innocent and the profound. He described seeing transformations in other people who had attended the class, wanting that same feeling for himself. Listening to him was very moving. I held back tears so as not to embarrass myself, or him.
His words were simple, honest and sincere. I looked around the room at the other volunteers, and we just shook our heads in disbelief. Since starting the class, this man has completely emerged from some sort of dark emotional cocoon and broken into the light of his own understanding.
We tell the inmates over and over that they inspire us. I don't know if they can ever fully comprehend how much we mean it. We grow from listening to them. They are the living examples of this wonderful brand of metamorphosis.