Words of Hope is a program that sends Christmas cards to rape victims in prison. But you can start sharing the message of hope right now.
“Don’t give up hope. It’s not over, I’ve been where you’ve been, and you have more strength than you believe.”
Words. They seem so fragile don’t they? Just sound waves, lasting only seconds. Just pixels on the computer screen. Or scratches on a piece of paper.
Imagine that you have been raped. Now imagine that your rapist was a fellow inmate, a guard, or a medical professional and the rape occurred in prison. All of your complaints have fallen on deaf ears, none of the government officials or attorneys you’ve reached out to have even responded.
“Right at that point I was literally just ready to give up,” Booth told BuzzFeed News. “I can’t tell you what it meant to me at the time. … “When you’re locked up, and you’re sitting in a cell by yourself, and people are telling you that you’re everything but a child of god, and nobody is saying anything good about you, it just really helps to know that you’re not alone.”
But then you get a Christmas card, maybe even a bunch of Christmas cards. No names, just messages of hope and empathy like the sample above. Written by people who really have been where you are. Who really have been through what you’ve been through. And they’re taking advantage of the season of peace on Earth and goodwill to men to let you know that they came out the other side, and you can too.
Or maybe the card is a message from someone who cannot imagine what you are going through, but they want to remind you that “your life matters, no matter where you lay your head at night.” Just a stranger, reaching out to an unknown person who is out of sight, and, to most people, out of mind. But a stranger who took the time to share a message of caring and acceptance.
The cards are written by volunteers at Just Detention International through their program, “Words of Hope.” Some messages they write are taken from the website (you can leave a message there right now to be delivered next Christmas) and some messages are ones the volunteers compose themselves, straight from their hearts. When I read this article about how a Christmas card from an anonymous stranger gave him the boost he needed to keep from giving up, it made me think about the power of words.
“Words of death, bring death. Words of life, bring life.” ~ Dr. Tom Barrett
Prison isn’t the only place where words of death are routinely spoken. Nor is prison the only place where rape occurs.
But certainly, it has to be a place where it is harder to maintain hope of life in the face of rape or words of death. If a simple card, with a random message of hope and belief, can have such power for someone in such a place, then surely we have even more power to offer hope and belief to those we know, people we see everyday, people who are going through we know not what, but probably it isn’t all peace on Earth and goodwill to men kind of stuff.
As we wrap up this holiday season, and this year, I want to offer each of you a challenge. Take a few minutes to type out a message to be sent to some stranger, and to be delivered by another stranger, who sorely needs the words of life you have to share. Bookmark the page, come back and share the hope in your heart for all of mankind for the next 12 months. You never know whose heart you will reach or whose lifeline your message will turn out to be.
But also set your intention, in this New Year that is about to unfold, to share words of life, of hope and belief, with both friends and strangers. Drop a note to someone to let them know you see their value, send a word of appreciation to someone who believed in you when you thought no one should, share a smile and a thumbs up with the cashier who is weary from the holiday madness, stop to talk a moment with the person in the park who is always there, and may well not have another place to go.
Words are cheap, in fact, they don’t cost you a thing. But they can pay dividends in the world that you will never see, but which will be collected by us all.
Photo: Flickr/Susana Fernandez