Years ago, I volunteered to teach a class at San Quentin State Prison in Marin County, California. My contribution was to teach a part of a reentry program for inmates who were convicted for less serious crimes. Sorry, couldn't find a picture of San Quentin, this is Alcatraz but you get the idea.
I just happened to be living in Corte Madera across the Bay from the prison and from my vantage point on the hill, the facility seemed like Avalon, but of course, it was far from it. San Quentin had existed since the time of President Lincoln and and was built brick by brick from materials were brought in on barges from the Bay. At the time, Marin County was just country. No Golden Gate Bridge. It was a summer retreat for rich San Franciscans.
I had just completed my NLP training and was seeing clients in my home. I had a breathtaking view of the Bay, where ferry boats would glide along the water taking commuters back and fourth from Larkspur to San Francisco. I began to imagine what it would feel like to be incarcerated and I had this great idea that I might help them change their thinking to change their lives.
One day, my intuition told me to pick up the phone to find out about volunteering. My heart led me across the Bay because I knew I had the training to help them. But what did I know about prisons? I was just a naive girl city girl. Anyway, miraculously, I was transferred immediately to a woman who ran the re-entry program and we clicked right away. I cannot tell you how miraculous this instant connection was. It was really a miracle as I was never able to get through to her again using the prison phone system. Fate?
I was accepted as a volunteer with the fresh enthusiasm of a recent NLP grad. For those who don't know NLP, that is short for Neuro-Linguistic Programming, the foundation of Tony Robbins work, but much more in depth. I was given great freedom to come and go from the facility and every other Tuesday I would sneak in my secret stash of cookies and uplifting videos, like Aladdin, for our students. The teacher, Nancy, was a heart person and probably an empath. She loved on her students and welcomed me with open arms. We were a good team.
She and I modeled healthy, self respecting, caring women to many who had only thought of women besides their mothers and aunts as their "old ladies." We focused our love and lessons on the little wounded boys inside them. Nancy and I were very transparent at times about our life struggles and I even remembered crying in front of them which seemed to allow them to open up about their wounds. Most of them were black from the community of Richmond and were in gangs so opening up in front of other inmates was truly forbidden, but some shared their past with great emotion. They trusted us because we sincerely came from our hearts and our hurts. This class was not a job for Nancy or myself. It was our mission.
I remember very little of what I taught them but one thing I do remember was teaching them the affirmation, "I am worthy of love and respect." Some took it to heart and hopefully remembered to internalize these beliefs and grow in confidence once we were long gone.
"I am worthy of love and respect." Isn't that what we all need to tell ourselves empaths, sensitives or not? If the people who are wounded as so many people are, preferring to cover up their hurts with blame and violence, accepted the truth of this expression we could live from healing not heartbreak.
Please know you are worthy of love and respect and give it to yourself and extend it to others. I miss my guys because their accepting me was my great honor. They treated me with respect and kindness because I respected them. I loved my sessions at San Quentin which is unusual for a girl from Manhattan. Please know these words are true for you, too.