Terry, 34

You can tell how much a person really loves you by all of the headaches they go through for you. My mother has gone through hell because of me.

There were times when I wanted to give up on life. But the thought of what my mother would feel if I did, if I gave up on life, stopped me every single time. When I was locked up at the age of 14, I did not know how serious my situation really was. Then I turned 16,  and walked into a maximum security prison. Now I am a 34-year-old man.

When I was younger, my sisters told me that every day my mother would go into the bathroom and cry. She cried because her baby boy had been taken from her. I knew from that moment on that I couldn’t be the one to kill my mother by taking my own life.

So now when I am called to the prison’s visiting room to see my mother, I smile and give her a hug. It doesn’t matter what I’m going through or feeling at the time. I know that if she sees me being strong, then she too will start to feel strong.

And from there I can sow these seeds into my community,  to Aid in the nourishment of the garden like Souls of others and I have no responsibility to make them Sprout, grow or Blossom. Deep care for the humanity and worth of others had dried up and become unfertile  on the Garden journey of my life. Thank God for my gardeners.

I don’t think that empathy needs to be taught, but awakened in each of us. I believe that in large part, we from childhood are caring, loving and yes empathetic. It’s easy as a child.  However, when are naturally empathetic nature is met with ridicule, rejection, judgment, even rebuffing, the vulnerability that allows empathy to be an interface true connection becomes almost impenetrable. therefore we learn to be extremely measured in our expression of empathy, if we continue to express it at all. And it’s not an act of not caring, but an active self protection from the effects of it having been rejected, a  warped sense of self-care because of the trauma, i.e. when people don’t care that you are, and take advantage of the fact that you care…Why care?

or even show that you care. Over time our sensitivities to other’s pain  dolls in us and sometimes even dies. This highlights that if you don’t use it you lose it Theory. And in today’s climate of selfies, socially non-social media  and individual tribalism, we are a species becoming the antithesis of our true selves. Which is strange when the core desire of our hearts is connection. (one of the strongest mantras that came out of the horror of this pandemic is that we’re in this together. We have always been and  we always will be.)  Again I digress.

Memories of the rejection I had experienced on my journey, I internalized, and I told myself a story about myself and my worth in light of the experience. And the false narrative kept me from feeling safe enough to continue to be empathetic. To quote Franklin Delano Roosevelt, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” Every person is  a Soul Garden, therefore, sow the seed, embrace the process and await the harvest. From a garden perhaps unfamiliar, yet so very sustaining beautiful. I did.

Now, I can say with pride who I am.

But now I can say with pride who I am.

I am a black man.

I am a son, a brother, a friend.

I am an athlete, a musician, and a journalist.

I am a man that has many workable skills.

I am a God fearing man.

I am honest, and I have compassion for others.

I am in touch with my emotions.

I can say with my head held high, that I am a feminist. I love my mother, my sisters and all women, to ever threaten them would be to threaten God’s greatest gift bestowed upon this earth. I know who I am now. Though I am still incarcerated, the battle that started at 14,  is still present. Today it’s not looked at as a battle, but a journey. Please read Terry’s poem below:

“The Chance”

As I sit in my dog kennel of a cell

I reflect on my life

Shaking my head in discuss

As I cover my face

To know that

I’ve been down since the age of 14

A crime that I committed

For a misunderstanding

Uneducated, ignorant, simple minded,

And plain immature

A whole lot of understanding

Of nurturing

Was the cause of my dealings

Living in a land

Where they still hate each other

For the color of my skin,

For my sex,

For my beliefs,

And for my political standings.

For I am a man

I say

Do I have a chance?

I want a chance

But to keep it real,

I have no chance.

For if the land that I live in 

Is imprisoned with it’s hate

Then I don’t even stand a chance

Because we won’t even 

Give each other 

A chance.