This I Believe

Denia - Holts Summit, Missouri
Entered on May 5, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65
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I believe in positive, personal change -the type that builds healthy self-esteem and has an intentional, positive impact on others.

Until seven years ago, I was the most changed person I knew. I transformed from a depressed introvert to perform on stage and teach workshops. However since 1998, I tell the change-story of a particular group of men, incarcerated and labeled thieves, rapists, murders and drug-abusers. In that year I became a Volunteer In Corrections at the Jefferson City Corrections Center. I work alongside men that live every day in a potentially hopeless, depressing environment.

I realize I work with the “cream of the crop” in two educational programs. But who would think that such a crop of men would be found in prison. They understand and take responsibility for their actions and all of them strive to improve -even the lifers. They treat others with more consideration than I’ve seen in most workplaces -despite several irritating situations and bland institutional food!

Their behavior reflects their efforts in positive self-change. They consistently me how much they appreciate the time, effort and energy I contribute. Only once -in thousands of volunteer hours –have I heard a swear word amongst them. They conscientiously adhere to a required ethical standard. Their commitment extends to preparing speeches and educational programs, mentoring others, taking on meeting responsibilities -etcetera. I could say more, but I’d rather tell you of their personal sacrifices.

They pay annual program dues of $10. Most earn $7.50 per month -out of which they have to buy such personal products as deodorant and toothbrush. And as a group, I’ve never heard a complaint regarding the required donation of fundraising money to a nonprofit –money that is also used to finance an annual banquet and purchase all the educational supplies.

And it doesn’t end there. More than one inmate has completed every educational and leadership level the program offers. Yet they remain members. I once asked one of these long-standing members why he continues to be in the program. He replied that he often thought how he could otherwise spend his time. But that he remembers how much the program has helped him, and that he is determined to mentor others so that they will receive the optimal, personal benefit. He sets a good example for others and several have followed in his footsteps.

This month our program will include the annual banquet wherein some will be honored for personal accomplishments in the area of communication and leadership. Attendees will include invited, outside guests that have participated in certain activities throughout the year, and as in years past these guests will comment to me regarding the quality of and improvements in these men. And once again I will swell with pride and appreciation that I’ve been able to work with such a fine group of men in whom I have observed the power of positive, personal change.