Light Behind the Walls

by Yohannes “Knowledge” Johnson 
Green Haven Prison Preparative Meeting


When we open the door, the room is dark. We flick on the lights and confront an empty room, chairs stacked and lined up one next to the other along the walls. One solitary heavy wooden table sits in the far corner waiting to see who would come and utilize its service.


The thought comes to mind, “We must get ready before the volunteers come.” The room this particular evening is hot and stuffy (July 19th). In the winter we make sure the windows are closed. With no radiator in the room, we must depend upon the body heat of those present to ward off the chill therein. Now, we seek to cool the room off. Our volunteers are elderly (like most of our group) and we are thankful for their service to humanity, volunteering their time to worship with us. A practicing Buddhist suggests we close the windows and put the lonely fan on high in an effort to cool off the room. We do, and it has a noticeable cooling effect.


We set the chairs in a circle with enough spacing between so a person can walk through comfortably without having to turn sideways or bump into someone sitting down. We are a small group, a membership of eight and a general attendance of five in average. As an “unprogrammed group” we generally schedule our agenda to include whatever contributions our volunteers may have to offer.


One volunteer offers a very potent program on spirituality. Another offers one on “self reflections.” Still another offers a program on “self introspection” on one’s present. Should volunteers not be able to attend we offer Queries for discussion on ways of looking at issues or situations. We are always mindful and guided by our Quaker Testimonies (Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality and Stewardship) to follow in our discussion.


On this night, our volunteer arrives, and as happens on all other nights like this, our volunteer brings Light (life) to recharge and energize the group. We greet with a warm welcome our evening’s volunteer and begin to settle down in preparation for our service to begin. Our volunteer notices how much cooler it is in the room compared to outside the room and we all take pleasure in knowing our small but significant act has had a positive and welcoming effect. We are pleased to see we are able to offer such a degree of comfort.


After Worship Service we hear of the upcoming gathering to be held at Silver Bay, wishing we could be there but grateful knowing prison worship groups shall be represented, and in that way, our Spirit joins in the collective Spirit of all who shall attend.


At meeting’s end, we do not necessarily wish to part. Our volunteer is given our individual blessings, and with smiles of appreciation and handshakes of goodwill, we hold on to the Light brought and experienced for the few moments we had to share.


When we leave, we bring the Light with us to get us through another week.