Can We Talk?


Tree Removal Process Along The New Green Line, Somerville, MA, June, 2018

Last week, after visiting a prisoner I see once a month, I was being escorted by a Department of Correction guard back to the prison’s entrance when I found myself engaged in a remarkable conversation!

First, let me set the stage: Imagine a hot summer sun shining on the utter desolation, the eerie quiet of no trees, no flowers, no humans, no birdsong; imagine a football-field sized space with nothing but tall, grey walls and barbed wire and chainlink fences and a long row of exercise cages, each attached to a cell, presumably. Got it?

The guard, having volunteered that he was due to go on vacation soon, prompted me to ask what his plans were. His answer revealed where he lived and, knowing his hometown has a very lively Quaker meeting, I revealed that I was a Quaker in hopes that we might know the same people—something we could talk about.

“Oh!” he responded. And began the Matthew 25: 35 passage “. . . when I was ill you came to my help, when I was in prison you visited. . . ” which I ended with “. . . whatever you do for the least of these you do for me.”

“And how about Isaiah 53?” he asked.

“The planted in—” but he interrupted me. “No, no,” and quoted a bit from that amazing, Old Testament account of The Suffering Servant that most spoke to him. Which he may have garbled; I certainly didn’t recognize what he said. (It’s a long passage containing lots of verses Handel’s “Messiah” fans will recognize.)

Here’s the thing: Isaiah 53 does begin with “He [the suffering servant] grew up before the Lord like a young plant whose roots are in parched ground.” Which I, living in a city with plenty of rain this year but where multiple natural gas leaks are killing or weakening our community’s sidewalk trees, a community whose trees are being decimated to build a light rail extension, find so poignant! In other words, Isaiah is saying: this servant’s sufferings are not his fault. Blame the parched/toxic/inconveniently-located soil. What a metaphor!

Here’s the other thing: Isaiah 53 also contains an incredibly moving passage, the centerpiece for my prison ministry: “Without protection, without justice, he was taken away; and who gave a thought to his fate, how he was cut off from the world of living men . . . ?”

Here’s the last thing: Whatever verses most appeal to us, that guard and I have both been moved by the same biblical passage, the same prophetic voice—who later declares he’s been “sent to bring good news to the humble, to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to those in prison.”





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1 Comment

  1. Dear Patricia,

    Well, hello, there, Patricia and A VERY NICE SPECIAL BLESSED HAPPY Labor Day to you and to you and for you, and all of you and yours, for your beloved husband, for your awesome children, for your precious grandchildren, for your darling siblings, for your dearest Loved One in thelong-term care facility, for all of your special family, for your so very pure in heart and holy friendsfamily at your Friends Meeting at Cambridge, for all of your so cool in spirit and Spirit yoga friends, for all of your wonderful other friends, and for all of your cool neighbors, sister!!!!!!!!! WOW!!!!!!WOW here!!!!!!AWWWWW, oh, how I so love this deeply spiritual blog post article here very uplifting and inspiring with your very keen and sharp discernment with such perspicacity, sistah!!!!!!! Oh, how I just so love how you share on your wonderful visits with your great prison friend and learning more about your loving and steadfast prison ministry and all of your caring and devoted ministry. YOU and your awesome prison friend help each other in your dear friendship, mutual love and reciprocity!!!!!!! I FOR ALWAYS pray for and think of daily and frequently of this strong and so very dear man!!!!! How moving and touching here in all of our very hearts and spirits, my and our sweet friend, Patricia!!!!! Your description of the utter desolation is very vivid here and I DO get it as you ask us and I do see here. WOW, how serendipitous with the deep spiritual connection that you and the guard made, Patricia! YOU BOTH made such a spiritual connection and what a Divine Coincidence that his hometown is in a town where there is a veryactive and lively Quaker Meeting! Sistahfriend, I’m so glad you asked him what his plans were for his vacation prompting him to tell you that he was going to that hometown with the blessed Quaker Meeting! What poignant sharing you both had regarding the Books of Matthew and Isaiah!!!!! I LOVE learning about all of thisand bearing witness to this, my dear, dearest, precious, darling Patricia!!!!!!! It is horrible that in the Greater Boston area that the magnificent trees in all of their majestic glory are being destroyed to make room for more railway transit lines!!!!!! This is so heartbreaking, my friend. Patricia!!!!!! Where I’m originally from in suburban Cleveland in my beloved Cleveland Heights, Ohio back then was known as The City of Trees. I think that my special original hometown is still known for that. I think where I live now in my special Iowa City, Iowa that it is known for its lovely trees. These are smaller cities, though, compared to the Greater Boston area so it is easier to keep the gorgeous trees in those two cities with the much less likelihood that there would be tree removal for railway lines transit. There is much lower population in these two cities and much less land available to even consider building a major railway lines transit. What a perfect title for this very telling blog post article here with a sharply compelling, picture-perfect picture accompanying this very fine and excellent blog post article. AWWWW, oh, how I so love here how YOU’VE once again as usual as always as ever very graciously and generously feature and include this very informative and interesting link! What a very beautiful, fitting, and applicable conclusion to this very emboldening and inspirational blog post artilcle here as I say a very hearty and resounding as well, “Hallelujah!!!!!!!,” and such a rejoicing, “Praise be!!!!!!” My precious sisterfriend, Patricia, YOU ARE just the very greatest and the very best, my friend!!!!!!!! 😊 ❤!!!!!!!!!WOW!!!!!YAY for YOU, Patricia!!!!!!WOW!!!!!!!YAY YAY YAY YAY!!!!!!!! YAY for our very sistahhood an friendship. Patricia!!!!!!WOW!!!!!!YAY!!!!!!! I thank-YOU and Spirit Continually FOR YOU AND FOR YOUR VERY PRESENCE IN MY VERY LIFE!!!!!!!!!😊💓!!!!!! I just so, so very much love and cherish YOU, Patricia!!!!!!!😊💗 Spirit so, so very much loves and cherishes YOU A WHOLE LOT AND A WHOLE BUNCH AND SO I, TOO, SO, SO VERY MUCH LOVE AND CHERISH YOU, Patricia, A WHOLE LOT AND A WHOLE BUNCH!!!!!!!!! 😊💓!!!!!!! Please have such a mighty fine and marvelous Monday and Labor Day, such a wondrousky wonderful rest of your week and weekend ahead, and may all of your very days be so,so very especially blessed, Patricia!!!!!! My friend Patricia, YOU ARE such the very, very epitome of such overall awesomeness and my very life’s and eternal joy and blessing!!!!!!!😃💗!!!!!!!

    Very warmly and sincerely FOR ALWAYS, my so, so very FOR ALWAYS awesomely special and dearly precious soul sistahfriend Christian Quaker white woman who you’re FOR ALWAYS so, so very much, Patricia, sisterfriend of mine, with My and Spirit’s VERY PEACE AND LOVE FOR YOU FOR ALWAYS, sister of mine, AND SUCH BLESSINGS AND SUCH VERY EVEN MORE BLESSINGS FOR YOU FOR ALWAYS, friend of mine, 😊 ❤!!!!!!

    YOURS FOR ALWAYS soul sistahfriend Christian black woman AND FOR ALWAYS in the very great spirit of unity and solidarity, Sherry Gordon in Iowa City, Iowa 😊💓!!!!!!!!!

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