Perspectives from Prison

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I’ve always worried about whether I should tell my story to the prisoners that I work with, or not. The team leader is adamant that I must. And so I do.

Last week I realized the value of sharing this story.

I guess I’ve been worried that the prisoners may think I’m telling my story to make them feel guilty or bad. This is not my intention.

To put this in context: I give a workshop on journaling, which is the first workshop that is part of a greater 20-week rehabilitation program, called Heartwork.

There are many uses for journaling.

Amongst them is using the journal to process a traumatic event.

I share the story of my armed robbery to illustrate how I used the trauma journal to heal and move on.

I told this story at Boksburg prison last Wednesday.

The prisoners participated, engaged with the content, and asked so many questions, we eventually had to stop and tell them they could speak to me individually during the tea break.

One man came up to me. He towered above me as he gently shook my hand.

“Miss Kirsty”, he said. “I am so sorry about what happened to you. We do this to other people, but we don’t know what it’s like on the other side. I apologize on behalf of the man who did this to you.”

I have to admit to feeling a little teary-eyed in that moment.

I realized then that the value add here was that this man was able to see things from another perspective. As soon as we are able to do that, we are able to see a bigger picture, to experience empathy, and to have better  insight and understanding of people, situations and life itself.

I have coached many people who have had ‘aha’ moments when looking a situations from another perspective. The ability to do this indicates a certain level of emotional intelligence. The deep understanding one gains from being able to see things from another perspective allows for better decision making and ultimately life mastery.

If there are situations in your life where you are struggling, look at it from a different perspective. What do you think is going on for the other person? What are their views and struggles? What can you learn from looking through their eyes? What action can you take now that adds value to everyone involved?

I’m sitting in my car writing this post. I’m parked outside Groenpunt prison in Vereeniging. It’s a sunny zero degrees outside. In a little while I’ll be talking to these prisoners about journaling. I’ll tell my story again. I wonder what the reaction will be like today….

The only thing you sometimes
have control over
is perspective.
You don’t have control over your situation.
But you have a choice about how you view it.

Chris Pine

Photo from http://ow.ly/yooMb

About Kirsten Long

Coach. Toastmaster. Prison-worker. Wife. Mother. Friend.

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8 Responses to Perspectives from Prison

  1. Sharon says:

    Thanks so much for sharing.
    I have been thinking a lot this week about perspectives and seeing life from a different perspective and your story was the cherry on the cake. It has reinforced why there are so many misunderstandings between people.

    • Kirsten Long says:

      Hi Sharon

      Yes you are so right – misunderstandings occur because people see things from their viewpoint only. Much would be solved in the world if we all took time to walk in the other persons shoes for awhile.

      Take care,
      Kirsten

  2. Lerato Moche says:

    Hi Kirsten,

    They say God works in mysterious ways. I have been alone and unlucky inlove most of my life. I am a single mother of 2 kids and, the closest I came to getting married was planning it in my mind. Wedding is every girl’s dream and was mine too, growing up I wished to be married with 4 kids.

    The closest I came to marriage was planning it in my mind. Until recently when God led me to the strangest place I never imagined anyone could ever think of finding love…PRISON!
    Yes, I just recently met my King, Soul mate, lover in prison and we crazy inlove it’s unbelievable. I too have since looked at life in a different perspective, I have learned so much from him and his inmates and I am inspired beyond words.

    The work that you do for them its amazing. Our government spend a lot of money to keep them in prison, and they can infact reap the rewards if they gave them a chance. Instead of rejection, hate-speech and all these law restricting them to even find work. But I still believe and I have hope for them that Almighty has a plan for All of us.

    Thank you and you be showered with blessing and strength as you continue to do the great works.
    Regards
    Lerato

    • Kirsten Long says:

      That is a wonderful story, thank Lerato. I wish you all the best. With your strength and solid attitude I am sure your life will work out perfectly.

      Kirsten

  3. Erick says:

    The uncle in Prison I told you about is coming out this week (Friday, 27th June 2014). Thank you to people like you for the great work you do for them while still inside. May the lord Bless you !!

    • Kirsten Long says:

      Hi Erick

      That is wonderful news! He will needs lots of support as he adjusts to life again – I am sure tht he will find it from you and your family.

      Thanks for your support.

      Kind regards,

  4. Erica Freeze says:

    Dear Kirsty

    Thank you for sharing the prison experience. It made me realise that prisoners are people in need as well.

    love
    Erica

    • Kirsten Long says:

      Hi Erica

      So nice to hear from you! Yes, it gives me a different perspective working there too. People are very quick to judge criminals!! When you hear about some of the childhood experiences prisoners have had, one has to ask – if I had the same childhood how would it have affected my life? Not that I am condoning the crime at all. It does just create room for empathy. Helping in some small way to rehabilitate prisoners is the least I can do.

      Hope you are keeping well,
      Kirsty

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