I had a conversation with a buddy, Darrin, who just moved into my neighborhood. I live in a minimum security unit and this guy originally came from a medium unit. I first met him there when I started doing time. He’s doing an 89 year sentence, so they had him in a housing setting with “lifers”. Most people serving life without parole are unable to graduate to minimum security, but his case is a little different. He has an end date, regardless of how far out it is. I was surprised to see him on my unit. Where he was, he had a single cell, there were about 30% less people, and he had a pretty good rapport with the staff, so I had to ask…, “Why did you elect to come down to minimum?”

Excitedly, he said, “Its the walking dead down there!!” He explained that his neighbors, about 15 of which were serving life sentences, all ACTED like they were dying in prison. Negative, angry, unmotivated. He told me that even if he dies here, he wants to be around positive, upbeat and forward thinking people. Anyway, things can always change. He cracked a smile when he said, “I wanna live, man!” Pro-social engagements and community involvement really help keep people grounded in the good things that life has to offer. I guess that if you have to wake up every morning to bitter, disgruntled people with no belief in a beautiful life or hope, its like being sentenced to a loveless marriage. I understood where he was comming from.

Darrin’s message to me is much like mine to most people I meet. Be better, be beautiful, be brilliant, be bigger and live well, regardless of where you live at all. Don’t mill about life like a zombie. Find shit to be happy about and do those things. Don’t be the walking dead, be the wonderfully alive. Get involved and stay upbeat! You’ll keep good neighbors that way…

by Rory Andes

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