Today a friend of mine who's been in jail for a while., over a year (and he gets out soon), called me. I've been writing him once or twice a week since he went in. We weren't all that close before. We knew each other. I felt bad that he was in jail (prison really). I don't mean he didn't warrant jail, just that he's not a criminal, just stupid and jail's not going to fix stupid.
Today he called and that meant something to me because it's 10 bucks for him to call... when you make like 75c a day that's a lot of days to work to make a phone call. He wanted to call because he wanted to say thank you for writing him. He had friends on the outside who wouldn't write him when he wrote them, hadn't written ever, or anything. And he felt like they'd just dropped him. (His initial crime was drinking and driving, then eluding. He got out on probation and got into a fight and put 3 ppl in the hospital before the fourth got him down... they had to rebuild his face... he's an excellent fighter... but that is a violation of probation. So, he got in trouble but they didn't revoke... a week later drunk driving and THAT was a revocation.) The people who dropped him were his friends, and ppl he hung out with and weren't negatively impacted by the things he did so it's not like they weren't talking to them because he'd killed their uncle.
"You don't know what it's like in here. You've never been locked up. You're out of touch with everything. Shit happens without you. You're frozen in time and you can't do anything. You don't forget what people look like. You remember what they used to look like but the rest of the world went on without you... they don't look like that any more. They're going on with their lives and you're stuck in a hole and it's like you're dead. You write letters and you might as well throw them down a hole. It's hard. It's the hardest part of being in here is being forgotten." His mom writes, sends money and visits him often (She works for me and I make sure she has time and money to visit, send money, and all that.) "It really means a lot to me that you keep me connected to the outside, that you've never been here. You don't know, but you're trying to help and that means a lot to me. I can't say how much I look forward to your letters." He wasn't quite teary but his voice was choked with emotion as he thanked me for writing, and for writing him this week when I was telling him my hopes for him when he got out, and how I looked forward to his trying to succeed and how I wanted him to know there were people out here looking forward to seeing him again... I told him about the gay kid that killed himself earlier this week that I read about on Google+ and how I worried about people because sometimes I worried about me but I'd always been lucky, people had always been there for me to provide an ear to listen or a supportive word, even when they didn't know they were doing it and I wanted him to know that I would be there for him... and if he got to be too high maintenance (He's got adult ADD and is manic sometimes) I wanted him to know that I'd have time to listen to him if he needed somebody to talk to.
We don't know very many people in common so my letters are about things I'm doing, things going on in town, and I ask about him and what he's doing. I find things online that I think might be interesting and send them to him... I don't know what it's like to be where he is.
But I do know what it's like to feel cut off from people... to feel alone... to wonder if anybody gives a damn about you and those aren't good feelings. So, I write. I write because most people aren't alone as they think they are but most of us don't tell people enough that they're important to us.
Maybe you don't know somebody in jail, but maybe you know somebody who you think might feel alone, or cut off from people or who is going through something real or imagined that is hard for them. Send them a letter, just a quick line saying you were thinking about them. Tell them a funny story. Send them an article, not a link, that you think they might be interested in. It's little things like that. Little human touches that mean the most. And they're mostly free, they don't cost a lot, just your time. But it means a lot to them... and one day, maybe it'll mean a lot to you too.