I went to visit a friend in prison a few weeks ago. It was the first time I had been in the belly of a correctional facility since I was a child. Back then, I went with my mom to visit her husband. This time, I got to escort a young friend to see his mom.
Two different prisons, one for men and one for women, decades between those experiences, and yet my eyes saw the same thing now that they did when I was a kid: people who just plain look like people.
Sure, we could tell which ones were the inmates because they all wore matching uniforms, but beyond that, they just looked like regular, everyday people.
I think perhaps I expected to see something in their eyes that made them different from me, more evil somehow. Maybe it would be something in the way they held themselves. But no. What I saw were people smiling, laughing, weeping a little and beyond grateful to be able to love on their friends and family who came to visit them, who had not locked them out even though they were locked in.
An inmate from the James River Correctional Center in Jamestown sent me this letter about the kindness he is seeing inside the prison walls.
“I read your column when I get the chance, and it makes me think that there are truly good and compassionate people in the world. Anyway, I am writing to let you know that even being in prison, you can find kindness.
For example, the newborn baby girl who was found alive after her mother was murdered in Fargo, I believe her name is Haisley Jo. Well, a lot of us here behind bars felt for her and her family, and we all started a collection for her. The Warden was so taken aback at our willingness to help that he allowed us to take money from our R.A. (Release Account) to donate. Now we don’t make much here, it’s anywhere from $1.15 to $5 a day. Some people have to pay fines and child support out of that, and then the R.A. takes 25 percent of what’s left. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is, we don’t have a lot, but what we have, we are willing to give.
Funny how some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet are rough looking and covered in tattoos.
Keep your columns going. They are reaching through even the thickest of walls.”
You never know where you’ll find kindness, which is why it’s so important to always be on the lookout for it. When you find it, you’ll be blessed. Kindness has the power to heal lifelong hurts, crack through age-old biases and even permeate prison walls.
Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at email@example.com. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.
Nicole J. Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is a writer, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Ohio University’s men’s head basketball coach Saul Phillips. You can visit Nicole at nicolejphillips.com.