Three Letters

Today three letters arrived in a single envelope, with carefully selected and placed postage stamps that said, “Love” and “Celebrate.” The envelope was addressed in a beautiful hand using purple ink. The return address was a California women’s prison.

I’d requested contact with women inmates to hear their impressions of our nonprofit and its first objective; to bring comedy instructors to teach the women improvisational comedy and stand-up. Knowing as little as I do about prison life, I expected them to say something guarded and light, along the lines of, “Sure, we could use a good laugh around here.”

But the women went so much deeper than that, addressing issues such as remorse, poor choices, emotional self-imprisonment, broken spirits, and physical and emotional scars.

Their wisdom is apparent as they wrote about healing, communication, inner strength, recovery, self-worth, and the unifying power of laughter. They explained how a program such as ours would be a welcome part of their healing journey, and that they will use the skills we teach immediately and when they reintegrate into society.

Their letters, which you can read here, helped me realize that the environment inside prison is at once dismal and transformational. That many of the women there work hard to understand themselves and their past actions, focus on improving themselves, and gain integrity in the process. And they become much wiser people. They are doing what they know needs to be done as they guide themselves and each other toward becoming the people they want to be.

The women also mentioned their need for laughter itself to give them hope, lift their spirits, and raise morale. I imagine there are moments of true lightness in women’s prison, but I’ll bet that is the exception. We intend to treat them to the transformational power of laughter, and teach them the skills to create that for themselves. We look forward to experiencing what they create.

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