Carla Y. Nix

Walking In My Purpose

ARE YOU REALLY FREE?

Posted by hashiki on December 23, 2008

"Battle" Champion Sherral Kayey of the Women of Success Toastmasters
“Battle” Champion Sherral Kahey of the Women of Success Toastmasters

I have a confession to make.  Way back in the day, back when I was a teenager, I once had a pen pal who was an inmate in some prison.  If you’re reading my blog, you probably remember what a pen pal was.  In fact, you probably  had pen pals yourself.  And some of you may  have even connected with inmates as well.

For me, I used to read, read, read.  Loved reading books and magazines.  I always thought that I would indeed end up writing for a magazine.  At least, I wanted to.  I’ve been dreaming of being a contributor for Essence magazine for as long as I can remember.  But before Essence, there were other magazines.  I read them and they would have sections for people who wanted pen pals.  I did have several pen pals from all over the country.  Hmmmm, in retrospect I see the makings of one who now have at least 500 (give or take 100) alone in email that I remain in contact with.  On Twitter, there are nearly 800 who follow my tweets (posts), and 166 on Snapvine who follow and listen to my voice blogs/podcasts, and I have no idea how many follow me between Facebook and MySpace, or who listen to Passion4Life my weekly internet radio show.  I won’t even mention (but I am) my Ning communities, Sisters4Jesus and SpeakLife.  One should’ve known that such a person was in the making! 
Such a person is me!
Well, this person, me, did not think that I should have an inmate as a pen pal.  I admit that I was young, dumb, and terribly naive when I sent the first letter.  They didn’t put the real address in the magazine to write to.  Only a box number of some sort, so I didn’t realize that I was writing to a prisoner.  And even more innocently, I wasn’t wrting to find a boyfriend.  I’ve just always enjoyed communicating and writing was always my outlet.  Idiotic me – the person that I am – thought that the person on the other end only wanted to communicate as well.  It wasn’t long before he wrote back and explained that he was in prison, and he told me what he wanted.  I learned quickly that it wasn’t communication that he wanted.  And, I also knew that Michael and Laura Young (my parents) would kill me if they knew that I was writing to someone in prison.
So, I stopped that pen pal connection quickly! 
And I also confess that I was afraid of prisoners.  I have to admit that I’d never known anyone who was in jail, so I just assumed nothing but the worse about inmates. 
During my senior year of high school, our choir went to the Orleans Parish Prison (“Parish Prison” – or “Tulane & Broad”, as New Orleanians call it) to sing during the Christmas holidays.  It was actually a good experience, but frightening.  The inmates enjoyed us and even fed us!  Hey, the BEST cakes were done at the Parish Prison!
When I was about 19 or 20 years old, my Pastor was interested in starting a prison ministry through our church. He was previously involved with prison ministry before he became our pastor just a couple of years prior.  He thought that I would be great with this ministry and he encouraged me to participate.  Deep down I was afraid, but there was something inside that interested me.  I wondered, however, how could I be effective in such a ministry if I could not relate or if I had nothing in common.  My uninformed thoughts were that I would walk in there and the prisoners would tear me up!  I was scared.  But my Pastor thought that I would do well.  Unfortunately, the ministry never got off the ground so I never had the opportunity.
Years later, I joined Toastmasters International.  I’d heard that there were some Toastmasters groups in prisons, especially in Louisiana.  In fact, they began there.  Well, I didn’t think much about it other than such a club must be frightening. 
In May of 2003, I attended our Toastmaster’s state’s annual Spring Conference.  In fact, I assisted in coordinating and setting things up.  On the night of the competitions, I ended up sitting at the last table that had a seat left.  I allowed everyone else to sit down as a show of hospitality.  So I sat with people who were unfamiliar to me.  I met this wonderful lady, Sherral Kahey, who was one of the competitors.  Before she was called on to compete, we had a lovely conversation.  She was so graceful, extremely beautiful, highly intelligent, yet very down-to-earth.  Truly delightful.  She was dressed nicely, very professional, as was/is the custom for someone speaking and competing in a Toastmasters event.  Her makeup was applied perfectly and her hair was gorgeous.  So nothing struck me as odd or different about this lady.  Not even the fact that at our table, there was what I thought was a security guard.  I just figured that she’d come in from work and was there to watch the contest.
I guess you know where I’m going. 
Sherral got up there and was by far one of the BEST speakers I’d ever heard in my entire life!  And it was through her speech that I learned that she was an inmate.  Oh wow, when she came back to the table, I could not stop congratulating her.  I continually told her how much she blessed me.   Sherral was so gracious.   I knew that I was sitting in the midst of greatness.  It didn’t matter to me that she was an inmate, meaning that my previous ignorant misconceptions of ALL inmates was shot.
I promised Sherral that I would stay in contact with her, and I have done just that.  I think it still surprises her to hear from me.  I write her, not as often as I need to, but I do.  If nothing else, she hears from me for Christmas.  and you know what?  She always writes back and she always blesses me!  Yes, SHE blesses ME!  Here she is, in prison, and she is being a blessing to me! 
Today I received her correspondence in response to my card to her.  She included an article about yet another Toastmasters speech contest win for her.  See her picture above.  Sherral is a member of the “Women of Success” Toastmasters Club.  Yes, Women of Success!  I LOVE THAT!  A quote from one of the judges regarding Sherral is:  “Her composure and clarity.”  This is what put Sherral in front.  “Also, her rate of speech was absolutely perfect.  Myself and the other judges were won over because her speech was so composed and so clear.”  Stated by Tony Moreno, Toastmasters 2007/2008 District 68 Governor.
I love the fact that Sherral’s group is named “Women of Success”.  This is so like Sherral.  This is the confidence and attitude that she has and it’s something that spreads to others.  Although I have remained in contact with Sherral, I don’t know what her crime was nor how long she will be in prison.  And I’ve never asked because I know her as the person she is now and I know that she she knows and loves the Lord.  She depends on God for her strength and the ability to cope and make life bearable in her situation.  The thing is that God has given her a special gift and she doesn’t allow the fact that she’s in prison to keep her from using it.  She knows who she is in God, she knows that her life is valuable, she knows that she has a real purpose in life.  Physical incarceration cannot stop any of that.
The tragedy is when people who are so-called “free” do not realize any of this about themselves.  They are the ones who are in prison.  Self-imposed imprisonment.  Shackled by living a life of unfulfilled purpose and potential.  That is what I would defiine as a prisoner.
Sherral taught me that I didn’t have to be afraid.  She simply showed me who she was, which was a blessing. 
Included with the copy of the article from the July/August 2008 issue of “The Angolite” newspaper, Sherral included another blessing.  I have read this before, but to receive it from Sherral gave it new meaning to me.  It brought tears to my eyes as I know that this piece is something that keeps her going.  I know that it gives her strength, and the fact that she sent it to me is her way of encouraging ME.  How wonderful!  How fortunate and blessed I am by her act of love and sisterhood.  And this piece lets me know that Sherral is okay.  She knows who she is, regardless of mistakes.  This is something that we ALL should know about ourselves.  Thank you Sherral for reminding me!
I close with the inspiration that Sherral has shared with me.
“BECAUSE” by T.D. Jakes
Just because no one has been fortunate enough to realize what a gold mine you are, doesn’t mean you shine any less.
Just because no one has been smart enough to figure out that you can’t be topped, doesn’t stop you from being the best.
Just because no one has come along to share your life, doesn’t mean that day isn’t coming.
Just because no one has made this race worthwhile, doesn’t give you permission to stop running.
Just because no one has realized how much of an awesome woman you are, doesn’t mean they can affect your feminity.
Just because no one has shown up who can love you on your level, doesn’t mean you have to sink to theirs.
Just because you deserve the very best there is, doesn’t mean that life is always fair.
Just because God is still preparing your king, doesn’t mean that you’re not alredy a Queen.
Just because your situation doesn’t seem to be progressiing right now, doesn’t mean you need to change a thing.
Keep shining, keep running, keep hoping, and keep praying, keep being exactly what you are already.  COMPLETE!
Blessings,
Carla Y. Nix
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2 Responses to “ARE YOU REALLY FREE?”

  1. Free indeed. God is at work even when we can’t see or imagine what He is doing. Sherral’s faith alone is evidence of God for me.

  2. Wow! Thank you so much for that blessing! :o) God Bless you and Merry Christmas!

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