So this time last year, I posted a little piece on valuing freedom on Facebook and it came up as a reminder. I thought to share it with a little bit of editing.
They say to appreciate the true value of life, you many need to visit at least three very important places; a prison, an emergency ward in a hospital (or a hospital in general) and a graveyard. I was privileged to visit a Prison this time last year and what I saw would forever change my perspective on life.
The Facebook post is below:
“There comes a time, a moment, an hour, or maybe even a split second or after having had an experience where you find yourself in deep gratitude to God. You have this inexplicable feeling of soberness and remorse for ever being ungrateful in life, for every ungrateful word or statement of complaint you have ever uttered, jokingly or in a moment of deep frustration.
Today, I experienced one of such moments. Today I visited the Keffi Prison, Nassarawa State. Being my first visit to a prison, I had mixed feelings of anxiety and excitement. Other than what I had watched in the movies or series, and what I had been told, I had never really seen what the inside of a prison looked like first hand. When we arrived, most of the prisoners (feels weird calling them that but that is what they are…I guess) were in the chapel (the Chapel of Reconciliation was what it was called).
As we approached the chapel, I could hear drums being beaten loudly and passionately by the prisoners as they belted out gospel songs at the top of their lungs. As we entered the hall of the chapel, the putrid smell that overwhelmed it stung my nostrils and I had to consciously fight to keep my face straight.
I guess what melted my heart the most was the fact that these were people living in the most uncomfortable of conditions, most of them as a result of awaiting trial and some, because they could not pay a meagre sum of two thousand Naira. Some were there out of an unfortunate event (such as walking around without having an ID card and looking “suspicious”).Yet…they sang…they danced, they praised and worshiped God with so much joy and sincerity. For some, I could see the pain and regret in their eyes, the silent wishes and desires for second chances, second chances that did not seem to be forthcoming…but in that moment, all that mattered was the happiness they enjoyed while praising God. I drank it all in; the smiles on their faces and the way some clutched their bibles and eagerly took down notes while the short message was being delivered.
As I stared around in awe, I thought to myself “these people are confined within the four walls of this prison. Most of them would not be going anywhere soon..or in some years…They are probably going to be stuck here for a really long time. Some may have even forgotten what it’s like to be free.”
In that very moment I learned to stop complaining about the little and meaningless things, about the things that do not matter. I learned to enjoy life to God’s glory and be happy with the freedom I have been given. I learned to release my mind from any mental prisons that my mind may have subconsciously wandered into and most importantly, I learned to value my freedom.”
It was truly a life changing experience for me. I had never felt so much remorse in my life for all the moments I was ungrateful or all the moments I had failed to use my freedom to the glory of God.
It could be me in there. Or you.
And while it was obvious to us all that these men were physically imprisoned, I wondered about many of us who are mentally imprisoned; walking around with so much freedom but allowing your mind to be mentally imprisoned by the bars of negative thoughts, fear of failure, peer pressure and its expectations, expectations from the society and even social media.
It has been one year since I put up this post. Most of those men are still in that prison and some may not be released for a long time to come.
Some days back I stumbled on an Instagram story being put up by CNN. I was able to get some screenshots of what was going on and it really convicted me. I have shared some of them below. The story was about Maha, a young Syrian widow who was trapped with her son in a city for several months and was communicating with her mother via Whatsapp. Some of the messages were sent in late September of this year and some in early October… While one young woman who has lost her husband was fighting for her life and not able to walk the streets free, I was probably complaining about traffic or rain or work or stress or whatever.
Source: CNN Instagram page.
What are you going to do differently today to show how much value you place on your freedom?