I saw an interview today from San Quentin. Several prisoners were “testifying” of their experience between SQ and other institutions. As we know, prison life can be harsh and dangerous. Not many nice stories are published outside.
This, however told of a very simple incident which changed the life of one inmate. He came from another institution which was like Attica from the old days.
When he came to SQ he was in the dining area at meal time. A guard came nearby as he headed to a seat. The guard looked him in the eye, smiled, and said “How are you today?”
The new inmate didn’t know how to take this….. Was he being “set up?” Was it sarcastic? He went on to the table, and looked back. He saw that the guard was greeting others and turned and gave him a nod and smile again.
“He really wanted to know how I was doing!” This small act of grace and humanity changed his outlook on life. Not just prison life, but life. His whole demeanor changed. He started asking others how they were.
He saw the awesome power of kindness and felt how it changed him. He passed it on, because it was good.
Engagement with individuals can be so powerful. I wonder if he might not be a felon if someone had taken this approach earlier in his life.
Sometimes, the best “grace” we can offer is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:) called kindness. The “Good Samaritan” Jesus feeding the 5000. All the healing and teaching. And finally the gift of his life to keep us from eternal pain and desolation.