A Guy’s View: Imprisonment
“I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:36-40.
This extract from the words attributed to Yahshua, speaks of the importance of caring for one another. According to this account, when we help each other, we are doing a divine service.
The way we live in 2016 suggests that there is not a lot of emphasis placed on this way of thinking. We have almost all bought the lie that we must love ourselves above all else. This hellish doctrine has changed the face of our communities and our country and has plunged us into a phase of coldness in our relations with each other.
The teacher said that we should visit the imprisoned. A prison is a lonely place, although ours is so well populated that the concept of loneliness may be pushed into the background. But even in an over populated prison, there is bound to be loneliness. Only those who see confinement as their natural life would think otherwise.
Not all prisoners are in Dodds or some other place of forced confinement. Many are likely to experience a life of confinement while living in open spaces with the freedom to walk around as they please.
In the last few days, Barbadians have been caught up in their reaction to a video of an elderly woman being mistreated by her caregiver, while another one reclined in royal-like splendor, with apparently not a concern in the world.
Many people who started to look at that video could not watch it all the way through because it was so difficult to take. Apparently, there is something deeply moving about a helpless senior citizen being treated like a useless, disposable nuisance.
The lady at the receiving end of that treatment is reported to have dementia. This makes the story especially personal to many Barbadians, for our aging population is producing a lot of senior citizens who are affected with this malady. A significant segment of our population has some contact with dementia, either in their family or in their community.
Dementia is becoming so common, that many middle aged people must be concerned that it could lie somewhere in their future. The greatest fear resides in the fact that there is no cure for this disease and no sure way of keeping it at bay.
Dementia is a form of imprisonment. Very often, the victim is perfectly healthy in every other way, but living in the prison of their own brain, or mind. This can be painful to look at, especially for those who knew these persons in their better days.
Many homes are prisons. It is suggested that dementia is aided by a lack of mental stimulation. Long before it catches up with its victims, many of them are held hostage between the four walls of their homes. There are many roads to this destination. For example, some people, still in their youth, make the decision to live without companionship, not realizing what old age brings. Then again, most marriages fail, leaving former mates marooned in their own private world in their later years. Or circumstance beyond one’s control may arise.
And then there are those who never made it to a settled relationship. In our modern Barbados, careers get in the way of family, relationships and genuine happiness. By the time careers are all sorted out, there is only time for one child, if any, and similarly uncommitted friends and social groups. As one friend put it, many people live in a prison of loneliness.
Unfortunately, there are some people who live in a family setting but know loneliness as deep as what is experienced by a recluse who lives in a remote cabin in the woods somewhere. The presence of people does not guarantee the absence of loneliness.
Domestic violence has long been a scourge on our society. There are too many people who live in that prison. Too many men sleep on the couch in their home and make excuses about the scratches and bruises they bear.
Too many partners have to behave like fugitives as their significant others follow them around the island when they leave the house, the homes of their friends being kept under surveillance. Some men cannot leave home without their partner, even to attend men-only activities. Some women give up on a social life because of jealous partners. These are prisons with no doors from which escape should be mandatory.
Some face third degree questioning every day. “What time did you leave work? What road did you take? So you were at work all of that time? I did not see your car when I went there, where were you? Every question, a trap waiting to fly regardless of the answer.
These are unhealthy places of confinement, often created by insecurity, fear, spitefulness, a need to control the lives of other people, among other things. But some are created by hormonal deficiencies or chemical imbalances in our bodies. When they strike, the strongest become weak.
To be honest, our society is becoming as impersonal as those larger countries where neighbour does not know neighbour. As we drift further apart, the entire society becomes one large prison. Except for those who experience the ultimate freedom of faith, imprisonment abounds.
Let us remember to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, and visit those in prison, including the prison of their own homes or minds. And if you hold the key to someone’s cell, unlock the door.