When I think about all the birthdays I have spent in prison, I remember receiving some of the best gifts anyone can give. The prison has always had very strict policies about what is allowed in and in recent years restrictions have grown even tighter. What sometimes amazes me is how people work around these difficulties to share the most amazing things with me. One lady many years ago bought me a star for my birthday, others send wonderful drawings and paintings and many send photos from holidays or of their gardens in bloom. I love sharing all of these things with my friends and supporters, the people who take those moments to share a part of themselves with me.
Personal memories are the best kinds of gifts shared, many people write with their happy recollections of events, it might be a marriage or a birth or the day they passed their driving test or got their degree. Others allow me glimpses into their every day life chatting as you would over coffee and expressing their woes, or just sharing the events of the day, moans about the latest parking fine they just received or details of their new shoes. Some debate over moving house or worry about relocating from the city to the country and sometimes I can allay fears over living in the rural but quiet and picturesque villages or homesteads.
I receive often very emotional letters from people who have lost family members in tragic circumstances or they have a sister, mother or child suffering from a serious mental illness. I share in their concerns; offer words of comfort and strength and most of all hope. Some friends write letters from all over the world while they travel or from where they live. Many are ex-pats and others of many different nationalities and it touches me that they are so far away and yet have heard about my wrongful imprisonment, which has moved them to write kind, supportive words and send a birthday greeting.
Strangers confide their loneliness, a feeling that is often all too real in prison, and I identify with the way they reach out to me baring so many emotions. People talk about pain, illness and suffering and in sharing together we find a salve. And soon strangers become friends; they share the laughter in their lives, the comedy in their relationships.
Friends pen their hopes and dreams for the future and talk about what we will do together once I’m on the outside. I’m looking forward to sharing so many of the things you write about in person. All your conversations in cards, letters and emails are welcome. So the next time you write a simple card to me, or offer words of comfort and strength, remember how much I appreciate these gifts even though they’re simple words, they’re so much more than that to me.