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What I Learned When I Wrote a Letter to a Prisoner

I learned something valuable that every human should know

Over the summer, I heard about this website that lets you write letters to prisoners. They handle the transactions or the transferring of the messages; all you have to worry about is what you want to write.

I looked through the profiles of the prisoners. Some were incarcerated for life, some just needed someone to talk to. I found a prisoner that had something like this in his bio: I like to read, write, draw, and work out.

I like to do those things. I believe that is why I felt I needed to write to him out of all the other prisoners.

Here is the simple letter I wrote:

“Dear — , keep your head up and your spirits higher. I saw that you liked reading and writing. So do I. What have you been reading?
You’ll be free in no time; but in fact, you are already free in a different way. You made the choice to better yourself and that can not be discredited.
Well wishes!”

From reading his bio, I learned that he has been in jail for seven years. He is not to be released until 2036. I know it can be taken the wrong way when I tell him as if I have the right to say, to him who will spend more years of his life in jail than I have been alive so far, that he should keep his head up. I was only trying to give him hope. I am glad he understood what I meant.

It was around a month or so before I received a letter back from him.

He began his letter with:

“What’s up!” Then, he wrote: “. . . are you bi? Cause I am! And I would like to have you as my boo!”

Now this came as a shock to me. I did not expect to read this, and I was shocked.=

I continued to read through the rest of his letter. He wrote of how when he was young his mom and dad divorced after they moved to Michigan. He then wrote:

“And it hit my mom hard, she was depressed a lot and she started doing drugs — smoking crack cocaine.”

He then wrote, after he wrote about his dad who had got another wife:

“But me being a momma’s boy, I wanted to be with my mom — so I ended up jumping into the street life, in and out of crack houses looking for my mom.”

On the next page of the letter, he talked about how when he was thirteen years old he became a Sunni Muslim:

“I used to hang out at this liquor store . . . The owner . . . took a liking to me. He was a good Arab dude who knew my mom and he would give me food to take home. He started giving me drugs and guns to sell. So I started selling crack and pulling guns on people in drug houses looking for my mom!”

It is shocking to read.

He ended the letter with this:

“But at the end of the day, I said all that to say this. I’m glad I went through that to shape me into the man I am today. My mom passed away in 2006 and pops passed away in 2015. All my so called family and friends have long forgot about me. I’ve been in prison since 2014–7 years to this day, and I go to sleep every night and I ask God why? Why are people so cold hearted? Why do family turn their backs on the ones they are supposed to love? But most importantly, I know now that everything that happened was in God’s plan and he don’t make mistakes!
“So I look towards every relationship/friendship as something special, cause if it wasn’t for misfortune I probably wouldn’t have met a lot of good people I can honestly call my friend! Like I said before, I truly want to thank you for responding to my page and bringing a smile to my face and I hope my words do the same for you as well.”

When I wrote my letter, I never once thought this would be the letter that I would receive in return. I come from a completely different side of life. I have not had to go through as much hardship as him and I can not relate with him on a lot of things — I can still hope the best for him.

There is no better way to explain my feeling reading his letter than shock. It is a shocking letter. And so, I have learned that it is okay to be shocked. You can not always feel comfortable in an uncomfortable world. If we wish to extend empathy to others, we must be prepared to be uncomfortable, and we must be prepared to be shocked.

Empathy has no boundaries. Empathy has no bars.


If anyone else would like to write a letter to someone who needs it:


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