Greetings friends. I have had several people ask me what it has been like the last few days, post-40 Days in Orange. There have definitely been some sweet spots. No more orange is pretty nice (see pics below for the official “shedding”). However, I really don’t like having to pick out clothes everyday! Having felt like I was on a marathon sprint for the past 40+ days, I gladly welcomed the rest the last few days. Rest from writing. Rest from explaining myself. Rest from the glances, glares, and stares. Rest from stigma.
And herein lies the bitter part. I really miss it in so many ways. My journey in orange blessed me in ways that were deeply meaningful and transformative. I will miss those challenges that have made me stronger. I began to understand things about Jesus’s story and about God’s presence among us that I had never thought of before. All because I walked on the margins for a while, as one of them, the despised and oft-forgotten. Even though it wasn’t real and I could explain myself and take it off at anytime, wearing the orange prison uniform gave me an opportunity to listen to the songs of the oppressed in ways I could never hear and experience as a white male with a middle-class, professional background.
Add to the personal formation the opportunity to speak truth on behalf of the poor and oppressed. What an honor and a privilege. Imagine a time when you were able to stand up for a friend or family member in a situation where they really needed you and couldn’t perhaps speak for themselves. That’s what it was like for me. The marginalized and imprisoned are like friends and family to me. I love them dearly. Their beauty and grace transform me. I see how their afflictions often stand in the place for my comforts. The least I can do is speak truth for them, about them, and most especially with them, any time I have a chance. To allow for my “story” to point beyond to the stories that really matter, for those who truly suffer, was a blessing I cannot begin to describe. I will forever be grateful for my 40 Days in Orange.
But I don’t want it to end. It should not end. The suffering of the poor and oppressed, the marginalized and imprisoned, the despised, cast aside, and dehumanized never ends. Not in this life, at least. So I have been thinking about, praying, and listening for ways to keep this experience alive. I would gladly welcome your thoughts and suggestions. Email me at email@example.com. Here are some ideas from my community of support:
- I will be writing a guest editorial in the Waco Trib to use my experience to highlight the need for jobs not jails and call for Waco-McLennan County to adopt Fair Chance Hiring Policies, in both public and private employment.
- I can share a draft Fair Chance Hiring Policy with anyone interested in advocating in your local community for a policy that makes sense for everyone involved. See Days 13, 14, 15, 18, 19, 20.
- “You have to write a book”, I was told. So maybe someone can help me figure this out!?
- I would gladly come to speak with your church, civic group, community organization, school, or other groups. I thrive on dialogue and believe this is the space where together we figure out what to do!
- Connect with other advocacy groups already doing the hard work around these issues.
- Keep wearing the orange?! And keep blogging.
- Start a movement of orange-clad advocates!? This idea has been discussed with me by a handful of people. We would need to really discuss the ramifications, identify our purpose, and be proactive in reaching out to the communities where folks join the movement. If anyone is interested in joining this conversation, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
- What else?! Send me ideas!!! Let’s keep the conversation going, the pot stirred, and the lived experiences of the poor and oppressed at the forefront of who we are as people, communities, and a nation.
As My servant you will do even more than this,
even more than restoring My family to Me
And making the nation right with Me again.
I will make you a light for the nations,
And You will illumine them until My healing love reaches to the ends of the earth. Isaiah 49