The event included different artistic expressions by the residents of the institution. As we arrived we had a chance to look at the art work that had been done by various men as well as have some conversations with them. The program itself consisted of various artistic forms: talks, poetry, a silent choir, a contemporary ballet, singing, a short play.
I am still processing what this time meant for me. First of all, I continue to learn about the value and the power of artistic expression. They began with a statement that it is through art that we can retain our sanity. And I would say that it is through art that we are able to find healing and purpose in our lives.
The men who I spoke to and who participated were truly full of life and it was clear that this program was so important to them. I thought that art is not only a creative endeavor for the artist, but also a shared experience for the audience. And I felt blessed to be part of the audience.
Though it all I was aware that the life of these men in prison is truly unimaginable to me. We had quite a process of entering and leaving the prison - all of which was a reminded of how "locked away" they are. One of the men I spoke to shared that he had been there for 15 years. We were in a spiritual conversation and he shared how much he has changed over those years and he credited his faith to much of that change. We talked about how many examples there are in the Bible of disciples being locked up. And that we believe that God is always doing something no matter what the circumstances.
Most of all, I came away understanding that - like all of us - these men have learned that life is best lived in the present. There comes a time to let go of the past and to trust that the future will be in God's hands. Ralph Waldo Emerson said: "With the past, I have nothing to do; nor with the future. I live now."
And so I was blessed to witness the artistic expressions of these men who are living a life with so much less freedom than mine. However, their creativity and imagination allow them to find life and companionship and purpose.
May we all do the same!