When I was 10 years old, the beloved woman who helped to raise me was sent to prison.The only information my parents shared with me then, was that she somehow came between a friend and her abusive husband, and he died. I was bewildered, confused and in shock that a split second decision to protect herself and others could rewrite her fate. Could someone’s value really be appraised by one act, deeming who she was before inadmissable and unimportant? The helplessness I felt as a chid was numbing. As I grew into adulthood, it manifested in a fascination for a person’s “back story”. If this beautiful human could be reframed in such a narrow way, there must be others whose stories didn’t align with the essence of who they were.
I created the Prison Postcard Project. It was born from a desire to give voice to women whose lives have been touched by incarceration. I began meeting with women in halfway houses, in drug programs, those that had already been imprisoned, and those who were trying to stay out. I asked each of them to write a reflective postcard to their younger self, offering words or advice to the young girl she once was, before her life took a turn. My hope was that with this platform, they could be seen and heard for who they are, not what they have done. The results were astonishing. Though the project was designed to empower them, what it did for me had an unexpected impact. I was humbled to realize that as different as our lives appeared from the outside, there was an invisible thread that existed between each of us.
The simple truth that rose to the surface is that we are all just one bad decision away from a very different life. Flooded with a new gratitude for those who spoke with an unflinching authenticity, I searched for it within myself and sought it out in others.
Some existing relationships naturally withered away, while others expanded into new depths. Setting out to make a difference in the lives of these resilient women backfired in the the most beautiful way. I felt the change they had made in my life deep in my bones. Their truth unearthed a thirst for what lies beneath the surface, and the often unexpected connective tissue that binds us all.