Two things have happened over the course of the past few weeks that, to me, reinforce just how precious life is and how, even on what we think are our worst days, we truly have so much for which to be grateful.
Last week, I visited a prison for the first time in my life. I have always been somewhat intrigued by what it means to be a prisoner — I watched every episode of the HBO Series Oz when it was airing, and you can catch me religiously tuned in to shows like Lockup and Hard Time. And though I never felt a calling to practice criminal law (like my sister, the big, bad, scary prosecutor), I’ve always been struck by the racial disparities in the criminal justice system, with Black men being the primary casualties. To be clear, I’m not maintaining a long-distance prison relationship à la Prison Wives. Instead, along with a few other law school classmates, I represent inmates as they litigate a wide range of legal issues. My clients are quite intelligent — so intelligent, in fact, that one can almost forget that they are communicating with someone who is incarcerated. We often imagine barbaric, morally depraved monsters; though the crimes that sealed their fate might suggest this, when you strip everything away to the core, they are human beings — just like you and me.
The particular client I visited gets joy out of the simple pleasures in life — like moving to a cell with a desk, chair and bookcase, or being allowed to possess 50 instead of 25 books. Or being able to work a job in prison making no more than $.25/hour. Or receiving a visit and a box of fresh fruit and vegetables from his mother once a month. The joy with which he speaks about these seemingly simple things — after being incarcerated for over 20 years and only recently being transitioned into an honors dorm due to his good behavior — would make one think he has won the Powerball. The bigger point, though, is that you don’t need to win the lottery to find pure, genuine happiness — both in yourself and others. I will never know what it feels like to spend a chunk of my life in a 7×9 cell (knock on wood ha!), but my clients do. And if they can still find joy in the simplest of things, then so can and I :-).
I also want to take this time to pay tribute to Whitney Houston. Recently, I came across a very insightful article written by none other than Master P (Who knew we shared similar sensibilities?) that questions the outpouring of support after she passed, when just the day before she was the washed up, celebrity has-been crackhead we’d come to forget. Master P closes the article with cautionary advice that I’ve heard time and again from my own elders — including both of my grandmothers: “We should give people flowers while they’re alive.” Take the time to tell someone you love and appreciate how much they mean to you; tomorrow truly is not promised.
Happy Ash Wednesday!
This week, I thought I’d experiment: I like shrimp fettuccine alfredo, I like vegetable lasagna. So I combined the two — I used shrimp, green and red peppers, garlic, broccoli , carrots, spinach, and ricotta and mozzarella cheese as filling. It turned out well (or so my dinner guests say :-)).
Finished off with strawberry shortcake. I remember my father making this when I was a child, only with store-bought individual sponge cakes — which I was quite satisfied with at the time. This time around, I made the shortcake from scratch and marinated the strawberries in Grand Marnier.
Overall, very tasty!