Christmas in Juvie

Updated: May 26, 2020

I imagine that the holidays are a particularly tough time to be locked up. The young men in our mindfulness class are all about to have their first Christmas behind bars, though, sadly, a few of them have had birthdays inside. Sadder still, was one young man’s lament at missing his daughter’s 2nd birthday, coming up next week. Despite the decent meal they get served on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years, all the guys agree that “It sucks to be here this time of year.” There was not much I felt like I could offer these guys this week, except to feel the pain they were expressing, and let them feel it too.

We opened class with a few minutes of meditation, which is really nice with our current group, who have been coming for a while now, and are used to the routine. Despite whatever their minds are doing, they sit like statues. We did our emotional weather report check in, and got mostly cloudys, with one thunderstorm. So I figured we could go right into some yoga before trying to get a conversation going. There were people outside the classroom watching in, and the guys were clearly a bit embarrassed doing the Warrior pose. I told them that a warrior doesn’t care who is laughing, because they are peace within themselves, and I was psyched to see that they puffed out their chests a little prouder, and raised their arms a bit higher.

We sat down and talked some about the holidays and what they missed being locked up. One guy got a little bit angry, explaining that he really shouldn’t be in jail at all, as all he did was curse in the face of a police officer. Whether that is the whole truth or not, it did provoke a conversation about current events and the tremendous anger and distrust that these young black and brown men have carry towards the police. Again, I found myself without much to offer in the way of guidance, beyond the need for all of us, whichever side of the cell walls we are on, to come to know our own fear and anger, and to not act from them in a way that we will later regret. One guy pointed out that the cops who have shot and killed unarmed people were probably incredibly scared themselves, and if they could have settled their own fear, the situation could perhaps have ended differently.

We ended class with a longer meditation of about 5 or 6 minutes. I almost felt bad ending it, as the guys were sitting there like little Buddhas, but better short and sweet I suppose. I am hopeful for these young men, that have so much going for them, and so much potential. I hope that they will find a way through their challenges that I can only imagine the extent of. I hope that they will have year after year of happy holidays, peaceful & free.

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