A Letter to the Young People Residing at Denney

I know you’re here because you’ve caused harm. I know some times (or maybe one time), you’ve done something unsavory. But if you ask me how I’m doing at noon on a Tuesday, the love spilling off my tongue for you is sweet as the birthday cake your mother made to celebrate the day you entered her world. Maybe you didn’t get to taste it this year, but we are all praying you can feel the warmth of every candle still burning, waiting for you to make a wish. I know you’re here because there’s some wish that wouldn’t come true, some bit of the world that kept biting you, some angry local god that offered you something for nothing, but somehow nothing turned into everything. We are all wishing a better world for you.

I will never know what it’s like to be you. I have never been told to stop dancing so that my feet could be shackled in their stillness, but I do know what it’s like to feel powerless. I have been told to count backwards from ten as my body desperately tried to remember the difference between anesthesia and being roofied at the Replay, and the one time my hands were bound by a jealous lover, I cried for seventeen years. I’m so terrified of giving up control I cringe at the word “submit” when I turn in an application. The world takes so much from us already.

Some days life feels as shattered as that bullet ridden windshield you’ll never stop picking out of your skin. Or a tragic confetti of too many forgotten night-befores. It may feel dry as your mouth when someone asks “why did you do it?” But please remember, your life is a miracle. You are not defined by your crime or what crimes were done to you. Your hands have created more than they’ve destroyed. Your life is holy—a beautiful, shining light, bright as the stars in the night sky. So needed, so wanted—you matter to so many who are living in the dark, waiting for you to light their way home. You are someone’s saving grace.

Friends, I am in awe of the kind of steel you must be made of to keep that brilliant light trapped in a cell day in/day out for what must feel like a lifetime and still greet me with a smile on a Tuesday morning. I don’t wish resilience on anyone, but those who have survived what you have know that life isn’t fair, tighten their shoelaces so that whatever monster comes in the night, at least they won’t trip as they run for their lives. I’m sorry if you’ve never known a full night of sleep. I’m sorry for so many things. I know that your aches and scars don’t justify violence, but you are strong enough to be here—to live here—and to show me kindness on even your worst days. There is still hope in you. I see it when you walk in the room and relax, your hands flowing out from behind your back, and ask what we’re dancing to today. You have enough trust in your heart to let me physically lift you in the air, give a joyful high five, play a game of leap frog, and soften just a little when you look me in the eye.

This is such a gift, ya’ll.
You are such a gift.

Do you know that dancing with you is the very best part of my week? Do you know that when I leave, I hold a tiny flutter of your spirit in my chest, gather it up in a deep breath and let it loose on the wind, praying that it flies through a field of fluffy white dandelions, setting free the shackled feet of a million tiny seeds ready to grow, and that all of a sudden, you’ll remember just how beautiful, meaningful, powerful you truly are?

With love,
A hundred hopeful wishes,
And so much gratitude for your miracle lives,


1 responses to “A Letter to the Young People Residing at Denney

What a blessing. Thank you so much for sharing this with us..it was powerful! You are doing God’s work.

Leave a Reply