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30 Days of Love: 21/30

Posted by Deborah Neisel-Sanders // February 8th 2013 // soundings, Stories and Voices // no comments

If you’re like me, this sounds a little scary.

But this week’s Thirty Days of Love posts are all about “Move Beyond Borders,” and one of those borders is my own comfort-zone.  The unspoken boundaries that were my “borders” I learned as a child don’t always work best for me as an adult, particularly an adult who wants to be part of the solution in making the world a better place.  That work isn’t always comfortable, but it is effective and satisfying.

Upholding the First Principle counts for everyone, even those who might have messed up, or gotten caught in an unjust system, or had it much harder than I ever did. And it also calls for seeing people as they really are, not as society has told me they are.

In learning about our prison system, I’ve learned just how isolating it is to be incarcerated – most people behind bars don’t have access to the internet, and even making a phone-call can be beyond their grasp (thanks to restrictions and exorbitant rates).  Having a pen-pal can be the one thing standing between complete isolation and any contact at all with the outside world.

I can handle writing a letter … and receiving one back in return. Especially if it makes the way a little easier for someone going through a hard time. It brings the social justice concepts that we learn about and march for down to a human level.

You can always do it with a friend or a group – even a whole community, like a congregation, could collectively participate. A book like “Uncommon Community: One Congregation’s Work With Prisoners” by John Speer can help you envision what that work might look like.

Today’s Thirty Days of Love post provides resources for Black and Pink, an organization whose database helps letter-writers find incarcerated LGBTQ recipients. And the “virtual congregation” Church of the Larger Fellowship offers a letter-writing ministry that uses CLF as the “pass-through” for letters to prisoner-members, most of whom are new UUs and can really use some encouragement or insight into their newfound faith.

Not every prisoner is in jail; there are always those around us who are constricted by loneliness, grief, depression, or just a rough patch. Families with children or youth groups can choose to write a note of encouragement and love to someone they know who is going through a tough time and could use some help building a “window” of hope and faith in their current situation.

So I’m going to “Move Beyond Borders” by breaking down some of the ones inside me that keep me separated from my fellow human beings.  I think it probably will make me a little more human, too.  Let’s do it!

February 08, 2013. Pen-pal an incarcerated LGBTQ.


Pencil BoothResources:

Black and Pink

CLF letter-writing ministry

Prisoner Correspondence Project – support for LGBTQ prisoners.

Gay Prisoners USA



About the Author

Deborah Neisel-Sanders is the Office Administrator for the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries. She can be reached at dsanders@uua.org.
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