Letters from an Inmate

wwii-era-lettersI knew Dirk by his voice before I ever saw his face. As a Kaio Community member, one of my projects was keeping in contact with Emmaus men who were incarcerated. I wrote Dirk a couple of times. He wrote me a couple of times. We chatted on the phone here and there, trying to process life in prison while constructing a plan for his approaching release date. Where would he live in the short term, as well as long term? What would he do for food? Finances? Clothing? As a fairly new face at Emmaus I did not have many answers, and the ones I did have were usually borrowed from Sill, the director of our Ministry Center. But Dirk seemed to know what he was doing. Confident and independent, he was never short on plans or ideas.

When his release date came, Dirk came to visit us right away. We were able to get him some clothes and a couple of bus fare cards. Dirk was always on the go. He always had an appointment, a meeting, a group, an interview. Gradually we saw him less and less. In this case, that was a good thing: moving into a new apartment, making it to meetings, Dirk was taking care of business.

One day down in the Center, Dirk was in his usual business mode when he suddenly looked up from piles of paperwork and asked me to come with him into the chapel. I agreed, assuming he had another big plan and that he needed a bus card or other assistance. As soon as I shut the door he started talking. He began walking me through how difficult it was in prison, how he got to where he is now, and where he wants to get to. As I waited for the imminent request for bus cards or clothes, Dirk started to cry. He tipped up his business-mode-sunglasses (as I like to call them) to wipe his eyes as he talked about our correspondence while he was in prison.

“Emmaus was the only ones who wrote me in there,” he told me. “I felt so alone, so isolated. I just wanted to tell you that the encouragement, taking the time to write and take my calls, meant so much to me. Means so much to me. I am so thankful for the relationships I have here. I don’t know that I would be where I am now if not for that. I just wanted to say thank you.”

Before I was even able to finish thinking about how small a thing it seemed to me to write a couple of letters and listen to him talk on the phone a few times, Dirk stood up and gave me a hug, then walked out of the room. Back to business.

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