Not What You Think: 28th January 2020

Obviously, for anyone spending time in prison, judgement has had a huge impact on their lives. However, quite apart from legal judgements, most people live looking through an almost invisible prism of moment to moment judgements. 'It's Not What You Think' was the theme of our writing exercise in class today. Students wrote in any form about a memory, or a story or poem which explored the theme.
DB wrote a pair of tender poems which look at the two sides of judgement. One looked at the outer value judgements, and the voice of other poem is aware of the illusion judgement and moves beyond to compassion. JK wrote a wonderful story based in rural Kenya about an outbreak of typhoid. Joy, in quarantine, distrusts one medical workers seeming interest in her, and wonders what her motives are. When she drops her suspicion and fear, she discovers an opportunity she had never imagined.
One of our new students, CNG, wrote about the dangers of instant physical attraction. The piece goes from 'wow' to 'whoa!' in a few hundred powerful words. TH wrote a poem hidden in a block of prose which, when we pulled the lines apart revealed a story about feelings of betrayal when someone was not what they seemed to be. JM's story of school days and the harsh judgement of a teacher by his students reminded us all of our school days. Her story talks about the important things we can learn if we can look beyond the surface.
What was striking from all the work was the different perspective and response to the theme. Not one of the pieces covered the same ground, and it was exciting to see how keenly everyone responded in class today and engaged in the discussion around the topic.

Today's winning piece is from MA who wrote a story based on a traditional folk tale from South America. Although English is not her first language, MA's story is a metaphor for the power of fear, and how it drives nearly all of the judgements we make.

It's Not What You Think
by M.A.

When we meet a person or are visiting somewhere for the first time, we are struck by first impressions. We ask many questions in our head as we notice how they look, how they dress, how they talk. We spend our life and our time judging others but none one of it really matters. It would be better to use our time in getting to know the circumstances of that person; to listen, not to our judgements, but to their words.

I remember a story of a King. When enemies were brought before him, he would always offer them two choices. They could kill themselves or choose to walk through a door. However, the door was frightening and covered with bones, knives, and blood. Prisoners chose suicide rather than risk going through the scary-looking doorway.

One day, one of the King's guard asked him, 'My King, why do you always ask that question and what is behind that door?' The King laughed and said, 'They would rather die than face the unknown. Come - I will show you what is behind that door.' The King opened the door and the guard was surprised to see an unguarded path to open fields of freedom the other side.

So it doesn't matter how horrible a person might look, study their character over time, and you will get to know them better than if you judge them by first appearances. If you look at people this way, they will always surprise you; most people are not what you think.

Creative writing class from Langata Women's Prison, Kenya


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