Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Social Effects of Having Loved Ones in Prison

Life has its highs and lows. There are things that chance into our lives that we never bargained for from the outset. A typical example could be having a flat tire while running to make it to a job interview on time. But, if for any reason, one finds his freedom confined within the walls of a prison, the effects are really devastating. 

It is really sad that one’s freedom can be taken away from him for one or more reasons. Honestly, I am not trying to stand for or against the legal system that upholds jail sentences. But, I am trying to x-ray the effects of such a sentence on a person with regard to his family members and friends. I think that is where it really hurts. 
Now, there are many prisoners who probably left behind their wives and kids. Even if the wife of a prisoner has the inner strength to stay without the man, what about the raising of their kids? Raising children is never meant for a single parent. The challenges involved are enormous. Sometimes, the kids end up in foster homes. Yes, it is true that these kids can receive proper nurturing in such environments, but that of his parents can never be equalled by any other. 
Statistics reveal that most children who end up gangsters and prostitutes are traced to dysfunctional homes. There is the role of a parent, even though he may not be morally perfect, that the child needs. The fact that dad is around has a way of shaping the life of kids. A recent documentary by CNN titled; “American Al-Qaida”, tells the story of how a young American lad joined the Al-Qaida network after mom and dad separated. The picture is no different when mom or dad is confined within prison walls. They are separated, and the frustration gets deeper and lethal.

In addition, friends of prisoners suffer a lot, too. In a friendship, everyone brings something to the table. Friendship is like parts of our body. Each differs from the other, but in all, they are best of friends with a single purpose. Once a finger is bad it could affect even the head. So, when someone is imprisoned, his friends suffer. They are denied the warmth and fellowship of a noble friend. For some prisoners who had pen-friends before the jail sentence, imagine the endless letters going out without a single reply coming in. Worse still, if the prisoner was addicted to social sites, such as Facebook, it will hit his friends hard on the network as they keep sending messages and postings without any replies or “likes.” 
Such is what people go through just for one man in jail. He is not the only one bearing the burden. In fact, some families bear more than the prisoner does. It is really a breaking time for friends and family members who have someone spending a while behind bars. And the heater turns on during birthdays of their loved ones in prison. Friends and relations would love to gather and celebrate with him. But such can only exist in the realm of wishful thinking. Being in prison is a hard knock on both sides. But courage and faith surely conquer.

By Renee Patterson
Blog Coming Soon!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Mommy's Favorite Holiday - 4th of July

My mom's favorite holiday is The 4th of July. When I was growing up, we had a home with a swimming pool, and we lived on a cul-de-sac (dead end street). This made our home the perfect place for the family to get together and swim all day. Then, that night, it was the safest place in the family for kids to light their fireworks in the middle of the streets and not have to worry about traffic.

I remember staying up all night on the 3rd with my mother, granny and aunts, helping them get the food together. I remember standing in the kitchen, cleaning the greens, listening to them gossip about other family members outside of our circle. The smell of the bacon as they got it, and the bacon fat, ready to go into the pot of greens. Watching just how much brown sugar should go into the baked beans. Watching my mom sneak a little mustard in the potato salad when my granny turned her back.

Being an "80's Baby" (which actually means I was a teen in the 80's), I can really remember the times when holidays meant so much. It was really great to have these family traditions that ensured that you got to see certain people, at a certain time, every year. Attendance at family holiday gatherings was not optional. It wasn't exactly optional. But, it was understood. It was always implied that as a family member, it was your duty to attend. It was not just a responsibility. It was a privilege. You were groomed that way from birth. And, you never questioned. it.

Then came the late 80's. I hate to admit it, but there was a substance that came along that not only destroyed lives, but it obliterated neighborhoods and changed the entire concept of what the word "family" meant. This, in turn, changed the way our families valued and celebrated holidays.

As our grandparents and other elders began to die, many people were left with a generation (our parents') whose values did not match those of the strong, family-oriented grandparents of our past. They forgot where they came from, on the positive-tip. Their priorities were not of God, our Lord, but of the "gods" of the streets. Those substances became more important than the time it takes to enjoy teaching the next generation the value of family.

As I write this, I wonder if I have done enough to try to re-instill these values in my younger siblings and cousins. As the oldest, I have a voice. A very important voice. It is very important to me that I use it to teach them and help them realize the dreams shared with me by elders passed before their time. I need them to know God. I need them to understand the value of family. I need them to look forward to those family holiday gatherings that ensure that we are a strong union of one. We are a network of leaders. I need to lead them the way my elders lead me. And, teach them to lead the next generation the same way.

With all that said, this will not be a sad holiday for me. I am taking Granny to see her tomorrow, July 4, 2011, her favorite holiday. I will reminisce with her about past 4th of July and try to really get an understanding of what happened to make her stop celebrating it. I need to understand it to learn from it. Because, I do plan to change it.

My hope is that one day, my mom will be home, celebrating the 4th of July with us, her family. We will all be together, swimming by day, fireworks by night. The only difference is that we will be at my home. She will be so proud to see me carrying on a tradition she started so many years ago. That is what a "legacy" is all about.

Happy 4th of July 2011,
The Prisoner's Daughter

Don't forget to check out my blog dedicated to being "The Prisoner's Fiance"!