Residents in jail can earn the right by good, respectful behavior to work outside of the walls of the correctional facility. They do everything from road maintenance, to landscaping, to animal rescue, assembly line positions, and more. I heard one of them say the other day; “It’s great being able to get out, feel the breeze on my face on the ride there and back but coming back into the jail, putting on the uniform and being surrounded by walls again is the hardest thing I do each day.” According to him, it’s feeling like one has freedom but ultimately, it’s an illusion.
I’ve reflected on his words since then and think it also describes a lot of people who are not residents of the local county correctional facility. We are confined by the walls of our making. We allow others to set the standards of our lives, we worry about presenting ourselves the way we think others want to see us. We overextend ourselves financially, work extra hours, take out more loans, place ourselves on the precipice of financial ruin to; “keep up with the Jones’s.” Social media, instant weather, on the spot news updates and opinion pieces, chain us to our phones. We separate us from them in our politics, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, city vs. country, refugee or citizen, and countless other ways we wall off those different from us.
To be truly free is to recognize these parts of ourselves that are imprisoned, see our illusion, be awakened and empowered to tear down the walls that make us and others prisoners.