Usually you will find me writing each week for the last few months about the criminal case that I endured many years ago. Today, I am writing because I reached out to an inmate a couple of weeks ago and he wrote me back.
I shouldn’t be surprised that he wrote me back, I guess, but for some reason I was.
I wrote him to just let him know that I had bought a piece of art he created and showed my appreciation for his talent.
I had no expectations of what might happen after that.
“Tommy” is in prison for life. I am sitting here thinking of how that must feel and I just can’t. It’s a combination of admittedly Tommy doing terrible things and a system that will punish him until he takes his last breath. Both of those circumstances are beyond my comprehension.
Tommy’s letter is surprisingly charming and informative. I don’t know why I would have thought that if he responded to me that it might be otherwise. I can’t tell you what “otherwise” would have sounded like, but this letter is real and doesn’t offend my sensibilities. I can imagine working with him. I can imagine getting to know him on some level.
Tommy created a beautiful tiger with a golf pencil. Yes, a golf pencil. I thought it was remarkable and I put it in my office to remind me of the talent and people that I am learning about.
One of the reasons that I was so taken with “Tommy’s” letter is that he said, ” … (he has) done some terrible things.” I don’t know what those things are and it may be best that I never know. I like it when people are accountable. I don’t think I will ask Tommy what he did.
He said that “not to toot my own horn too much but I have gotten a lot better since “then”(when he made the tiger) and art is a huge part of my life. I put in the hours and read any art books I can get my hands on to improve my skills.” That is impressive too. Finding a talent and leaning into it is fabulous.
This is a memorable day for me. My first inmate letter.
I hope that I build some relationships with artisans that I will probably never meet. On some level, we will be friends and understand each other. “Tommy” writes “I got the dedication and skills but no one to help me on the selling part. I’m very excited about this. I’ve been wishing hard that someone like you would come into my life! I hope in time we will get to know each other and be able to trust each other.”
The art “Tommy” and others make is truly their escape. They have the satisfaction of knowing that it lives on in someone’s home, business, school or wherever. People will pass by their art and some will stop and read the story of “Tommy” and admire his talent.
I am doing this work for “Tommy”, for the criminal justice non-profit that gets a donation because of Tommy’s work, for the beneficiaries of the criminal justice non-profit and for all the people and businesses that will buy art in the future. I want them to know that they all had an impact. We belong to each other.