“One day more means one day less.”
This is something my girls at prison say. It’s sort of an inside joke. Once I understood what it meant, I got to thinking, “Shoot, sometimes I feel the same way when I’m homesick.”
In the same way, I too have “time to complete” before I can go home and be with my family. And sometimes the time flies, while some days I can’t get home soon enough.
Don’t get me wrong—I don’t view being a missioner is the same as serving time in prison. I am aware that I chose to live and work here and they did not choose to go to jail. But play along with me if you can, because, if you do, you will see there are actually a lot of similarities.
Another thing the prisoners and I have in common is being separated from our families. And sometimes that makes us all very sad. When they cry about how they won’t get to spend the holidays with their families, I can relate. I can relate all too well.
Holidays aren’t the same when you’re not home. You don’t always eat what you’re used to eating or celebrate in a way that you are accustomed to. You have to adapt to the circumstances you find yourself in. Often, you have to make an effort to enjoy the people you are with because you can’t actually be with the people you want to be with.
The greatest similarity I have discovered between the women in prison and myself is that we are using this time to learn. I am learning a lot about myself, my strengths, my areas for development, and my character. They are too.
They are getting to know themselves in a way they never have before. Lots of family and friends have abandoned them. Some people won’t come visit or send them money for food. They have to toughen up and keep going. They often tell me how much they have learned about themselves, about others, and about the value of family during this time.
The similarities we share are a gift. Really. It makes the work so much easier to do because of how much we “get each other”. During our last meeting of 2014, Kirsten (the other volunteer) and I thanked the women for their friendship. A friendship, that we have discovered over time is quite mutual. We don’t go to prison to “save the women” or “make everything better.” Sometimes, quite the contrary. We go there sad, disappointed, frustrated or upset and they help make us feel better.
Yes, you heard right. I felt bad about this at first and then I realized, this thing has to be mutual to be real. We are not there just to be their friends. We are there so they can offer us their friendship too. And they have not disappointed.
They are generous, kind, wise, and loving women who have had many life experiences with which to draw from. They are moms, grandmoms, aunts, and sisters with inspiring stories that sometimes remind me to be more grateful, to be more understanding, or to be more forgiving.
In case you didn’t know it, I LOVE MY GIRLS. They are a true gift to me. And I wouldn’t trade my time with them for anything. God put us together to learn from each other, to support one another, and to offer each other comfort and love.
Yes, one day more might be one day less. But we are enjoying the time we have together in the meantime.
Peace and all good from Cochabamba!