An Amazing Opportunity

Lauren J., a participant in the TCCC Del Valle Program shares her connection with Truth Be Told.

I had the amazing opportunity, and hopefully only the first of many, to go to prison today. Only this time I got to leave a short while later! I got released in March of 2011. Since then I have placed my hand into many different pots, a few causes and organizations. It doesn’t take up more time than I can give, and it has been a lot of great experiences!

One of the organizations that I have only recently become involved with is called Truth Be Told. I had been in the classes that they do in the Del Valle jail through the PRIDE program at the same time that I was in the Conspire class. If you had asked me even then, I would have told you that these two classes were my favorite! At the fundraiser kickoff for Conspire, I had the opportunity to reconnect with some of the people who provide programs out at the jail.

Kathleen, who facilitates for Truth Be Told approached me and as our conversation progressed she asked if I would be interested in working with them as well. The thought had occurred to me before. However, I assumed that since I hadn’t graduated from a more intensive course such as the ones they do at the prison, that I wouldn’t be a candidate for that. My assumption was incorrect and I went to an interview with Truth Be Told. We were a good fit for each other and I was invited to sit in on a meeting with them to help develop a curriculum for a class that they want to start doing with the women in the prison’s that have 90 days or less until their release. It was a great meeting that left me energized and excited!

Truth Be Told has been doing classes out at the prison in Lockhart for many years. The class that graduated today was broken down into three different groups, one group that was dubbed “movement”, one that was writing, and one for speaking.

As a part of the class the women have to examine things that happened in their lives that were beyond their control, as well as things that they actively chose that led them on the path to prison. At the end of the class each woman has to get up and share their story with their group. The group then picks three women to represent them at graduation and tell their story.

I went in today only having a vague idea of what the experience would be like. I made an effort to be present and in the moment throughout the experience at the same time making mental notes about what I was witnessing and feeling. Just before the movement group got up to do a performance of sorts, I thought to myself that if I had been there and had to choose I probably would have chosen the writing or speaking group since those are areas that I feel comfortable in. Then the women got up, and without saying a single word, a full range of emotions evoked in me.

Even though I tried not to, in the beginning, I decided that it would be better that I show that emotion and let the tears fall. The combination of music and movement expressed several very different experiences and each of them transcended beyond anything that words could have expressed.

The women got up and told their stories, some of them were articulate and well spoken leaving me with the thought that the stories they told should be published and shared with the world. Some of them were nervous and slightly introverted, but they exhibited courage as they got up and pressed beyond the fears they had and shared the truth of their stories anyway. These stories are stories that I could relate to in so many ways, and so many of the stories I had heard many times before, just with a few different details. I realized that the ways in which we are connected reach far beyond our histories. Although I had never met any of these women before, I felt as if I had known them and been on a part of their journey with them.

At the end we formed a circle of response where the participants and volunteers could get up and speak about how this impacted them. My mind was racing. I could have talked for an hour! There were so many things I wanted to say. I tried not to monopolize the time and kept a balance between expressing what I feel is most important to convey. I also try not to take much of the focus off of them by keeping it on me. I shared a small amount of information about my story, that I had been locked up, that like one of the women who spoke, I had my son in jail. I was blessed with opportunities to examine myself and explore who I was and wanted to be through programs like these.

I was happy to be a part of something so powerful, even if it was only a small part.

While I was there today, I remembered the ache that I felt when I was separated from my children. When I got home, I took a moment again to be present and hold my children extra tight, grateful for the chance to be able to do so. As I held them, I thought of those women and sent them my love.

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