Tuesday, November 22, 2011
The other day I had the privilege of heading up to Castlemaine, to H.M. Prison Loddon. Now you might ask why it was a privilege and hopefully through this posting you will understand why.
I headed up there to do a talk to some of the inmates, through the Street Soccer Program run by “The Big Issue”. For those of you who don’t know “The Big Issue”, it is a magazine which is sold on the streets by those who aren’t as fortunate as the rest of us. Some of them are homeless, some are struggling with addiction and some have physical or intellectual disabilities, but it gives them a job and a purpose. (see www.bigissue.org.au)
So I went to the prison on the day that the Street Soccer program is run to talk to them about setting goals and believing in themselves. The soccer program is amazing and I guess the best way to describe it is in the words of Craig Foster “Street Soccer is one of the most inspirational examples of social transformation in Australia”. It gives the players the support and motivation they need to change their lives.
At Loddon Prison they have about 20 intellectual disabled inmates and each is paired with a mentor. Loddon is a medium security prison so houses men who have committed white collar crimes, serious driving offences or men finishing their sentence for a more serious crime and are coming to the time when they will be released. The mentors assist the others with things such as learning to budget money for food, how to prepare a menu for the week and also how to cook. There are numerous classes at the prison to make sure they are ready to live in the real world.
So here I was to talk about my life, facing my diagnosis and my fears about that, then how I set goals for myself. I talked about the knock backs from different areas but how I refused to let that stop me. As I said to them “when one door closes, another one will open, you just have to look for it.” I certainly didn’t refuse to acknowledge that they had done something wrong so were doing the time for that, but that they had to have dreams and goals for when they left the confines of the prison.
I was extremely surprised at the end of speaking how many questions came my way. It was the most inquisitive group I have ever spoken to. Some of the questions were about my MS diagnosis, some about MS itself and a lot about my sporting careers. We had a lot of laughs during the afternoon! We then went outside so that some of them could show off their soccer skills and I must say there are a couple of the guys I can see being on the national Street Soccer Team! I was even treated to the best coffee I have ever had and a piece of amazing cake, just taken out of the oven!
But this visit made me realize that we all have choices in life and because of those choices and actions we create consequences in our lives. There are some actions that empower and enrich your life. But then there are other choices and actions that lead only to regret and disappointment. These men I met on this afternoon had made choices that seriously compromised their future and are now paying the consequences.
As I said at the beginning that it was a privilege to speak to them that day and I think that it was because of the old saying “But for the grace of God go I”. We have all done things in our past that could have led to serious consequences, we have just been lucky that nothing ever bad happened.
So if there is anything that you take out of this post I want everyone to remember that in every moment, with each thought and action you take, you are choosing your consequences. Take advantage of each opportunity to choose the very best!