We passed through Humble, Texas, on our way back from the prison we visited. Humble. (Though the town was pronounced "umble.") That's one way to describe our visit with the incarcerated women on the Find Your Way Home prison tour. (I blogged about this a lot a couple weeks ago, but if you're just tuning in, here's the back story.) Humble-ing, rather. It's a very strange, humbling feeling to realize that people who have been condemned and locked up are really not that different from you... and yet at the same time, you realize they inhabit a totally different world.
I know I'm a judgmental person and way too reliant on stereotypes, but it really surprised me to meet inmates who looked like they could have been my college classmates or my mother's friends. I spoke with one woman who looked a lot like this actress, and had beautiful green eyes. She and her equally "normal" looking friend both teared up as they told me how one mistake steered their lives off course. (I've heard that one should not ask an inmate about his or her crime, so I did not, but these two women volunteered "prescription fraud" and "drunk driving," which I assume meant manslaughter, since I doubt a DUI sans-accident would land you in prison.) Those women told me about how glad they were to have been accepted into the "faith-based" unit in the prison, where they could take classes and do other enrichment activities. While they spoke regretfully about their crimes, they seemed actually grateful for the opportunities for self-reflection and spiritual growth their incarceration had offered.
I studied their uniforms, willing myself to remember, since I was expressly told I could take pictures of those in our group, but not of the inmates. Their shirts looked like one Matt has--a boxy, white, short-sleeved shirt. The fabric looked like some of the white twill curtains I used to have up in our bedroom. They appeared to have a choice of footwear between plain white athletic shoes and black work boots, and some of the women (the ones in a certain unit, I learned) wore a green plastic wristband like what you would get at a club, only thick and hard and fastened with metal grommets, not weak plastic. They wore no makeup, of course, but could wear their hair as they liked. Lack of hair dye, however, revealed how long some women had been there, with their brown roots grown out to the shoulders and four inches of blond on the ends.
They were moved to tears by the songs our musicians sang--"Bless the Broken Road," "When You Say Nothing at All," "Break Down Here," and more. Luisa Lopez (pictured below with Marcus) played a gorgeous song off her new album "Cigarettes and Other Dirges."