Blog Post- Louise Grant – I find that you sometimes deepen your appreciation of something when you experience its absence. This deepening happened for me this week. For the last month, DreamWeave operations in the Nashville jail were on standby as the Sheriff’s Office relocated incarcerated populations from one location to another detention facility. This Tuesday, our trainer Amanda and I eagerly arrived in the housing unit at the jail to resume operations. The women, in their red-scrub uniforms, were sitting in the open-bay area of the dormitory-type setting where they live in their confined spaces. They jumped from the tables, saying, “DreamWeave is here!”
What Amanda and I quickly learned was that the women had remained busy during our absence. The nearly 20 DreamWeavers had, in the past week, been granted access to their DreamWeave tote boxes filled with the paper materials necessary to create their one-of-a-kind purses.
The women were eager to show us their artistry. “What do you think of my blue jean purse? I’m so proud of it,” Joye said. “I prayed the whole time I was making this Bible purse,” shared Melissa. “I hand-drew heart designs to create an entire purse. I hope someone wants it for her daughter,” Linda shared. “I’m almost finished with my breast cancer awareness purse. Do you like it?” asked Melena. “I couldn’t wait to show you my red, white and black purse!” Nicole said. “I think this Oprah magazine is my best one yet,” said Morgan. And on and on it went, as the women shared the beauty of their creations. I thought how dramatic it was that just months ago few, if any, of them had considered themselves as artists. But in that jail, with those hand-crafted purses in their hands, these women of all ages had transformed their thinking about themselves in at least some small way. They weren’t using familiar words like, “failure, unworthy, useless, junkie.” What I felt emerging from them, instead, was something deeply soothing to me – the feeling of self-pride.
Admittedly, with DreamWeave having been absent for a month, I had wondered if DreamWeave would have been forgotten by these incarcerated women who have chosen to participate in our nonprofit social enterprise program. Certainly, our DreamWeave team outside the jail gates hadn’t forgotten these women behind the bars. They’ve influenced how we spend our working days and how we view the missions of our lives.
So, to have returned to jail and to have seen this large group of DreamWeavers beam with pride at their artisan creations has deepened my appreciation for this DreamWeave journey. It’s a journey that is challenging for me, and our team, on many levels –creating an entrepreneurial business without a clear road map; learning the nuances of fashion design and purse production with no previous experience; learning to sell these artistry purses and raise money to sustain the program; and working daily in the deeply emotional environment of a jail.
But I appreciate all of it. Now, more than ever. I always tell the women I mentor in the Tennessee Prison for Women and in my prison classes that “the journey is the destination.” I’m feeling the truth of that statement more and more as we DreamWeave on this unique journey. So, today, I give gratitude, thankfulness and appreciation.