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Blog: This Gift Costs Nothing, but 'Means Everything'

The Dalai Lama said, "The more we work for the happiness of others, the more our own happiness increases.--That is an obvious fact. Yesterday it became obvious to me.

What kind of holiday greeting is appropriate to send to someone in prison? What if you also knew that this person was raped behind bars while doing time for a crime?

That's the dilemma I faced when Just Detention International, a local health and human rights organization that fights for the end of sexual abuse behind bars asked me to pen a holiday card to a rape survivor. At a time when we are being exhorted to spend on everything from Black Friday to Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, it is refreshing to have a request that is not for money but rather less than a minute of my time to send a bit of well-deserved hope. To send some words to comfort and inspire one of the loneliest and least discussed segments of our society. A way for me to touch the life of one of the hundreds inmates who are living in fear and isolation after enduring horrific trauma while in the government’s custody.

 I thought about Alvin. He was just 18 years old when he was raped for the first time, while in a county jail. The second time was by a cellmate at a state prison. Last year he was the recipient of a JDI card and here is what it meant to him. 

“As I read the cards telling me how I was not forgotten, my eyes got blurry, full of tears. I always thought nobody goes through what I go through. The holiday cards saved my life.”

Beat that, Hallmark.

My words flowed smoothly after that. I simply went to the website and typed:

I am thinking of you this holiday season. Stay strong.

The form will only accept 140 characters. Volunteers will hand write my greeting and send it directly to a prisoner with just my first name as signature. That's it. I may have just saved another life and it felt great.

Perhaps the Dalai Lama put it best-as he usually does-when he said, "The more we work for the happiness of others, the more our own happiness increases.--That is an obvious fact." Today, it became obvious to me.

Please join me in this incredible campaign. You can write one letter a day (or more). There are even suggested greetings that will pop up if you can't think of anything to say. In the words of another survivor, "this costs nothing but can mean everything."

Anyone wishing to participate in the campaign can do so by visiting JDI’s website  and submitting their greeting on line. JDI staff and volunteers will send these messages – each one a beacon of hope –to prisoners, who so often feel forgotten and alone during the holidays. 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

ROBERT E. FISHBACK December 03, 2012 at 04:09 PM
Crystal: Thank you for sharing this very important ministry of yours. That your heart goes out to the forgotten and abused is a life saving effort. I wished there were more people like you. I have a "thing" about the one amongst many. I used to go to Tehachipi to see the wild flowers. so many of them..I walked through a field and just picked one flower to look at. I spoke it and said something like.."you are just one and no one has ever stopped to look at you, but without you, this field would not be the same." It was symbolical and I wondered what people would think if I told them I spoke to a flower. But, it satisfied me, somehow.
Anthea Raymond December 03, 2012 at 05:01 PM
@Robert-Christal has been doing amazing work around this issue for a long time, including oral histories with survivors. She also runs an entrepreneurial business Emergency Kits 4 All and is an on-site trauma counselor through the Mayor's office. AR
ROBERT E. FISHBACK December 03, 2012 at 07:54 PM
Anthea: I looked up all your accomplishments and I wonder why it is that some people get all the marbles. It's like all they have to do is twitch and great things happen. I have a blog site on Montrose Patch called Hot Spots that you might enjoy. I have written a proto type of a story I am going to write. Alot is taken from my own life as a child. There is a distant planet called Urserene and the inhabitants are much advanced over humans in many ways. They look like beautiful human beings,,,almost angelic. They are interested in knowing more about Earthlings with the hopes that they can be bred with Urserene women to produce what the Urserenes lack...the ability to have fun and be creative in a non serious way. Urserenes can time travel, and they pick me in 2012 to experiment with. I will go back to 1952 and seek to mentor me so I will turn out better. I will meet my Mother and Father as they were then and have to overcome hugging and kissing them...and weeping..as they now are both deceased...I absolutley am impressed with all you are and have done..and I feel Echo Park area is a "Hot Spot" for reasons I know and would raise the hair on your head.if only you knew....b
ROBERT E. FISHBACK December 06, 2012 at 05:27 AM
What is a Dalai Lama? I think I saw one at the San Diego Zoo, but not sure.

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