Volunteers Share - Carolyn Reese

Isha Prison Program Volunteers Share
Their Experiences

Serenity Surfacing - by Will Griffin's
Humility and Thankfulness - by Rubka Tamarat
Amazing Grace - by Doug Longmore
Bars - No Bar - by Krishnan Venkatraman

Inner Freedom- A Volunteer's Story
by Carolyn Reese

I have always believed that all people are basically "good". Hence I have empathized with prisoners and others who seem most unable to live in accordance with this core of "goodness". But this visit with Jaggi to the prison moved this belief to a "knowing". It was one of the peak experiences of my life--to watch a metamorphosis unfold. At first the prisoners appeared tense and uncomfortable--some might even say disrespectful--slouched about--leaning away--a look of hardness--of distrust--an attitude, perhaps of "What makes you think you can say or do something for me?"

As Jaggi moved physically close to them, spoke their language, and communicated his knowledge and respect for their situation, they physically changed in front of my eyes--they began to sit up, to focus on him, to change their facial expressions--to reveal their "goodness" and their humanity.

As we played dodge ball, I was amazed to see that I was having fun. (I usually avoid this part of the program at all costs.) I could hear the prisoner's comments, see their laughter, and feel our connection to each other. I have not felt this way with any other group. I played at my peak--maybe beyond. I was recovering from a broken ankle and had planned to use that as my explanation for not participating. I had asked Jaggi what I should do, and he told me just to be out there among them. I was happy to do that. I wanted to be close to them--to communicate my acceptance and support for them in some way. I felt a shared respect, and, yes, love--not only for them but also from them.

After the program I was surprised as so many of them expressed their appreciation to each of us individually for our coming. I have not experienced this much "courtesy" and gratefulness from any other group. And I felt so much love and appreciation for Jaggi--that he could so eloquently communicate to the prisoners what I felt--a demonstration of his "godliness" and, perhaps even, a mirror of my own. Thank you, Jaggi, for this opportunity--for this validation of my belief in the goodness of all of humanity--for this deep experience of love, acceptance, and appreciation for even "the least of these."

Rubka Tamarat is a volunteer from Nashville, Tennessee

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