I believe true friendship comes when someone is in trouble and you are there to support them. I learned this when a friend of mine served time in the state penitentiary for eight years. I was angry with him and for a year I didn’t care whether I ever saw him or not. Finally, after several months of sorting through my feelings, I was willing to reconnect.
My husband and I both had background checks completed and the two of us went to visit. We took our shoes and watches off, emptied our pockets, and walked through the metal detector. After that we stayed in a large room with a crowd of visitors waiting for his name to be called. We listened to a young girl ask when they were going to get to see her mother. These words hit my heart, making me realize inmates are human beings and they have people who love them.
Discovering who prisoners are to someone else helped anchor our friendship into a committed relationship. I saw value in our friend. I looked beyond his faults and discovered who he was, the special person God intended him to be. His imprisonment taught me that we all make mistakes and have consequences to those errors, but we are all people who are loved by someone.
A year later we planned our vacation so we could see our friend. He had been moved to a facility across the state and we were excited to visit him. Driving two hours away from where we were staying, we entered the building. Since it was hot, we wore shorts. To our dismay, a prison rule was “no shorts“. We were told we could go home and get pants on and come back, but since visitation was only for two hours on that day, we opted to find slacks in town.
The small place afforded a grocery store with tee shirts and shorts. No wonder, it was over 100 degrees. Driving around we located a second hand store full of maternity wear. I smiled. Carrying out two pairs of maternity pants, I slipped into mine. Hubby fumbled with the snaps on his pair and wondered how anyone ever put the things on. I gave him an evil look and asked if I could take his picture.
We made it back to the prison for the final hour of visitation. We couldn’t get in wearing shorts, but my husband could get in wearing maternity wear.
I learned important lessons about friendship during that time. I discovered being a friend means to stand by someone when they’re struggling. I want to be a person who can be counted on, no matter what happens in their lives. I can accept them for who they are and not what society says they should be. Friendship is a precious commodity and the best words anyone can say to me is “You are a good friend.”
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