Lessons Learned as a Prison Volunteer
By: Kathy Kent Toney, President of Kent Business Solutions
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels
One of the things I love doing in my spare time is volunteering with a prison ministry. I’ve been doing this for over a decade, and it’s one of the most rewarding things I have ever done.
Since then, I’ve been a regular; however, the pandemic has put a stop to this for now, but I’m looking forward to going back!
My involvement started in August of 2009…my first visit to the Maximum Security prison at Lansing Correctional Facility. Gina Hanna, the Executive Director of Beauty for Ashes Reentry, invited me to attend what would be the first of many events we would hold for the inmates.
So there we were, 10 volunteers entering this imposing facility. I must admit, I was a little intimidated at first, but the initial anxiety melted away quickly. The guys we met seemed to be ordinary guys and were actually pretty nice!
Just to give you some context, the guys we work with are in a Christian program, and the majority are really putting forth the effort to learn and grow. They’re making the most of it.
As I’ve come to know some of them, I’ve discovered they’re like a lot of us. Most of them have just made some poor decisions, and unlike us (who may have done some crazy, illegal things in our younger years!!), they happened to get caught. These men have made enormous mistakes, but many have chosen to learn from them and are striving to better themselves.
They’ve learned that bad decisions don’t have to define their forever. They can turn away from the path of familiarity to make more positive choices.
Some of these men and women I’ve worked with have left prison and are now living productive lives. It’s such an amazing thing it is to be a part of helping someone, even in a small way, transform their life! I am honored to serve them as they seek out and embark on a new, more productive path.
Likewise, bad decisions we’ve made for our businesses are there for us to learn from.
Just because you’ve always done something the same way doesn’t mean you need to continue down the path of familiarity, particularly if what you’re doing isn’t working. Like the guys I’ve met in prison, we have a choice to change direction, to take the path of doing things a better way.
And the good news is…what isn’t working often points to what WILL work.
If you’d made mistakes, you can always learn from them and grow.
In last week’s blog, I touched on this topic. As a continuation of that, I’m going to dive in deeper on how to recover from mistakes, all inspired by the example of some inmates I’ve interacted with over the years.
Here we go…
1. Be Persistent in Learning from Your Mistakes
“Johnny” is such a great example of this. He was a hardcore, mean drug addict. You did not want to cross him! But he made a huge turnaround while in prison, choosing to learn from his mistakes and become a better person.
It certainly hasn’t been an easy road for him…after his release, he ended up back in prison for a short stint. Since then, he's made more bad decisions, but he's committed to becoming the man he wants to be.
Today he’s a model citizen. Johnny’s learned from his mistakes along the way while preventing them from happening again. He’s now pouring into the lives of others...to help guide them away from making bad decisions and inspiring them towards achieving their goals.
Lessons learned: Don’t let multiple bad decisions deter you from achieving your goals. Learn from each one, persistently moving forward towards your path of success. This not only will help you, but it will inspire those around you.
2. Believe That Things Will Get Better
One young man I interacted with is a great example of this. Let’s call him DeAndre. I’m a worship leader at my own church, so one of my roles as a volunteer is leading the inmate worship band during the services I attend.
DeAndre’s an amazing drummer, I mean, REALLY good. He used to tour with well-known gospel artists. Then he landed in prison, but he hasn’t allowed that to dampen his enthusiasm for life. He always has a mindset that things will get better and works to improve himself and the lives of those he interacts with. He’s one of the most positive people I know, in an environment that is often full of negativity.
Lessons learned: When we have the mindset that things will always get better, despite bad decision fall-out, it can serve as a natural catalyst to improve our situations. This positivity can be so powerful and contagious, your colleagues and teams can benefit from it as well.
3. Make the Most of Your Situation
“Sam” is another great example of this. He actually was imprisoned long-term for a minor offense that appears to be over-prosecuted. He had every reason to be angry, but he made the most of his situation…he took classes to gain more knowledge, volunteered as the sound technician for the band, and sought out healing for himself. He worked towards improving his life while in prison, which helped prepare him for his release.
Today, Sam is thriving since he left prison. He’s been reunited with his family, serves as a volunteer in various capacities, and is working full-time at a great job.
Lessons learned: When you experience negative fall-out from your mistakes, dig deep to find ways to improve your situation. Then, work diligently to put those insights into play. There’s a good possibility that the work you put into making the most of your situation will pay off in the future.
Speaking of that, are you looking for ways to improve your situation, your business, and aren't sure where to start?
Or, could your business use some help moving forward after bad decision fall-out?
In either case, I'd love to have a conversation with you! I'm all about helping organizations with their challenges so they can become more profitable.
If that's you, then click here to schedule a time to chat!
Kathy Kent Toney
I'm passionate about helping organizations grow profitably in ways they haven't imagined!