Life in these strange times: reaching for resilence

The weather has been strange lately, with hard frosts at night and snow falling on the second Saturday of May. You have to have resilience to deal with the atrocious and bizarrely changing weather. Having lived in inhospitable climates for most of my life, I would say that, at least in terms of dealing with bad weather, my resilience could be better. I tend to whine a lot when I’m cold. Which is often because I feel the cold in my bones.

Well, at least, I’m not whining about Murder Hornet sightings. I am quite relieved not seeing Murder Hornets flying around. Well, I read that those oversized hornets, equipped with mega stingers, don’t actually bear the title of Murder Hornets. Their real name is Asian Giant Hornet. I probably don’t have to capitalize Murder Hornet or Giant Hornet either, but these bizarrely enormous insects have taken on a role of a character in some sort of strange real-life horror movie.

Apparently, Murder Hornets don’t like to freeze any more than I do. Cold weather causes the mega insects to go dormant. In other words, we only have to deal with one weirdness at a time. seeing that huge snowflakes in May aren’t a great motivator for huge insects to buzz menacingly around honeybees. But still, you’ve got to reach for resilience when it snows in May and when someone spots oversized insects that can destroy honeybee hives.

Sometimes, I can’t seem to reach far enough to find resilience. And so I need role models. One such role model is a gentleman named Rufus Rochell. I was listening to him talking on Facebook Live. He was talking about people who were caught up by the wide net of the U.S. government’s War on Drugs. The War on Drugs is also called a War on American Families. Rufus talked about the people who are given draconian sentences for “conspiracy.” They play minor roles in the conspiracy, and, often, they have no access to the actual drugs. They are convicted of something called “ghost drugs.” I’m not sure what the heck ghost drugs means and why a court of law, which is supposed to focus on facts, would permit this to happen.

I met many people who had been convicted of drug conspiracy charges during my brief times in prison. Some of them really just didn’t understand why they had received such long sentences. These women were mothers who were separated from their families. Their children were serving sentences, too, because they were forced to grow up without the presence of their mothers in their day to day lives. These women’s sentences were often shockingly excessive. They struggled with resilience and, oftentimes, they found it in one another.

I am still friends with many of the women that I met in federal prison. We are all at home now and many of the ladies have become advocates for an end to mass incarceration. They are speakers, fundraisers, and personal support for others. They raise money for women who are getting released from prison. They provide support for others who are going through the experience of arrest and imprisonment because they know that no one should go through this experience alone and without support. My friends are impressively resilient. They have persisted, despite ghost drug charges and draconian sentences.

Ghost drugs sounds like a bizarre concept. Unfortunately, the injustice of being sentenced to many years in prison for ghost drugs is a real thing. Rufus talks about this from experience. He was sentenced to forty years in federal prison for a drug conspiracy charge. He served 32 of those years. Three weeks ago, Rufus was sent by the Bureau of Prisons to home confinement.

He came home to a world changed by technology and by COVID-19. Just three weeks later, he is quite adept at using Facebook Live to speak about his experiences and to offer hope to others, especially young people. 

Rufus is already working to be an agent of change. Rufus is a published author and, from prison, he managed to run fundraising campaigns for such causes as Hurricane Katrina relief and for a boy with an eyepatch to receive a prosthetic eye.

Rufus is the very definition of resilience. This father and grandfather never gave up, despite tremendous obstacles. He did great things in prison and, now that he is home with his family. He is truly a bright light of positivity, and prison could not diminish his light.

Look around you and you will find resilience. You can also find it in the mirror. That may be the hardest place for you to see it clearly. But look. It is there.

4 thoughts on “Life in these strange times: reaching for resilence”

  1. Today I watched a virtual rally which took place outside of Bedford Hills State Prison for Women. The women who organized the event shared personal stories of resilience they saw while incarcerated and others they have seen since being released. They honored two women who died recently (one from Covid-19) who were shining examples of resilience despite the pressures of mass incarceration. Prison is no place for a Pandemic!

  2. Our local jail was a COVID-19 hot spot for a while (it isn't any more). These advocates will need even more resilience now as public opinion is against protecting the incarcerated in any way. Beautiful painted rocks.

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