“If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.”

“I think everyone should be in prison at least a year.”

After the typical pleasantries were exchanged, this was the first thing my new student at Kate Barnard Correctional Facility said tonight.

“Just so they gain some perspective.”

“I feel the same way about waiting tables and travel,” I said.

I often hear people speak of the incarcerated in a manner reserved for the nastiest this world has to offer. Folks say atrocious things, like we should make inmates into testing dummies or slave labor. Lest they forget the majority of those imprisoned in the U.S. are there because of drugs. And, I can confidently say some of the ugliest humans in this world are walking free. Of course there are those who have done awful, heinous things to get themselves behind bars. Of course it’s easier to not imagine being born into a different life or being handed different circumstances. Empathy is always a challenge. Keeping it “us versus them”…cake. The only way to get real rehabilitation and in turn, to improve society, is to understand that we are all just a smidgeon away from that completely different life, and to act on that belief with our vote and our voice. And to actually care. And that’s uncomfortable, because it’s easier to look down on people who make bad choices.

She went on to explain the perspective she was talking about, “I took everything for granted. Something as small as a toothbrush or hairspray. I took people for granted. It took being here for me to see that.”

After the yoga class, she asked me if I knew of any breathing techniques to help her sleep. I told her a few and said I’d get her some stuff written down she could try next week.

“I don’t sleep here,” she said. “I try to, then I feel like I’m gonna start shaking and my throat closes and I can barely lay still.”

“I’ve felt the same way,” I said. “It’s hell.”

We are not so different. None of us are.