This is Izell Robinson, Minnesota inmate number 210006.
Today, I have a piece called “One Reason” that I wanna do. This is with the holidays nearing, especially Christmas, I thought this was important to say now because the organization I’m gonna highlight definitely could use a little assistance with helping this happen for other people and children. “One reason.”
I found myself sitting in frustration, anger, and self-defeating thoughts. For God’s sake, here was the holidays, and I was trapped in a cell. I was confused when I looked at other inmates because they were excited in anticipation for Thanksgiving and then Christmas. Their joy bothered me even more. The more they smiled, the angrier I became, because I didn’t understand how they could be so happy in confinement. In my mind, I nor anyone else should be happy with confinement. I mean, I was already hurting enough being away from my children, other family, and friends. To me, the holidays meant getting together with and supporting the family as we engage in fun activities to spark joy.
Since being in confinement, I hadn’t seen my children, other family, or friends outside of an occasional photo, and speaking with my children, other family, and friends over the phone is limited and expensive. I had become to start resenting the holidays and find myself somewhat distant and forgotten from the people that mattered most to me. I began to feel like I didn’t have one reason to celebrate smile or be happy. “What did I have to be thankful for” is how I questioned myself in my mind.
Soaking in my silent tears that was depressing my ambition, I mustered up some strength to check my mail. Sitting in my mail, I seen an odd memo. It was related to my approval for the Salvation Army Angel Tree gift program for children of incarcerated parents. I read the memo and began to feel ecstatic. My children would at least now get gifts for Christmas and a personal card from me. I can’t lie. This news became my one reason as I got happy. I smiled and wanted to celebrate.
My thinking began as I recognized that a person can be happy confinement, and that doesn’t have to mean that they’re happy with confined. I was letting the negatives of what I thought or felt incarceration was supposed to be like control the attitude I felt I should have. I believe happiness in prison was a vulnerability. Therefore, I was afraid to find it. I had even stopped praying and reading my Bible consistently because I had become discouraged and questioned God to my plight.
But seeing that golden angel on the Angel Tree pamphlet gave me a reason to pray and say, “Thank you, Jesus.” I needed to write about my experience so whomever may read this or hear this will know why I appreciate the Angel Tree program for children of incarcerated parents. When my children did receive the gifts from Angel Tree, they made it a point to know to let me know how grateful and happy they were to receive the gifts.
Listening to their joy made me feel like I did something great because they knew I cared for them. I think my earlier anger was about disappointing them and feeling like a failure because I knew I had nothing to offer them from a prison cell beyond words of encouragement and peace. I will constantly place myself in their shoes and wonder how it must feel not to have their father aroun to do the things with or to buy things that they want, and that disappointed me.
Yet I gained empathy and motivation. I am a different man from the man that initially walked through these prison doors, because I also found one reason to reform myself and stay out of prison, and that’s the love I hold for my children. Therefore, I’m committed to being a better father and productive citizen in my community that promotes peace and not harm.
If you’re reading or listening to this and you are interested in being a positive support and helping out the Angel Tree program for incarcerated inmates to get gifts to their children during the holidays, please feel free to contact Charles Berry, the Correctional Service Director at the Salvation Army division here in Minnesota at 651-746-3532. Where the address is 2445 Prior Ave N, Roseville, MN 55113.
Thank you for listening. Thanks to Prison for this much needed platform of linking prisoners with their communities and families for much needed support and dialogue.
These commentaries are recorded by Prison Radio.