A few months ago we orchestrated a wellness fair for the staff at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center in hopes of being invited back to work on the residents, the kids, in the enormous facility. There are hundreds of souls here awaiting trial, sometimes for more than a year, for crimes they may not have committed. There's even a high school in the jail, for those incarcerated for significant portions of their adolescence.
It finally happened. Last night we were escorted to a community room with AV capability and lots of resident-created art on the walls. While eagerly awaiting the arrival of the young adults we'd be working with, we learned they were not responding voluntarily to an invitation to learn about reiki. They were in a particular group, or pod, and they were all required to attend our event, whether they wanted to or not. Eeep. Would they be receptive?
They filed in and took their seats, twelve young men, all dressed in their JTDC uniforms. None of them had heard of reiki, so I gave a brief overview, Patrice led a group exercise, and our host played the Reiki Brigade intro video on a large screen on the wall. Afterwards they asked a few insightful questions and we arrived at the moment of truth. Was anyone willing to try it? Several hands went up, and as we passed around the waiver/signup sheet, we realized every one of them was curious enough to take a turn.
There was some giggling as the first, brave, young men moved into the chairs up front to try reiki, but from then on out, the mood was mostly curious and respectful. Each of us worked on several residents, and one or two guards queued up as well. Here a recipient shares with Rebecca what he experienced during his session.
Responses varied from, "That was decent," which we were told was a high compliment, to "Sheeeeet," from one resident who was clearly blown away by his experience. One of the guys became so relaxed, he listed forward and I feared he would fall out of the chair. There was hand shaking and comments such as, "I appreciate you," as the sessions ended. About halfway through a couple of the guys were pantomiming what they saw us doing on the people next to them, as if to offer them energy. It was so heart-warming.
One could almost forget where this was all taking place, and then someone would get up to use the facilities, only to get a pat down by a guard before being given permission to enter the restroom. It was a bleak reminder of the lack of freedom these guys have.
During the Q&A at the end, one of the guys suggested, "You all should talk to our mental healthcare workers." An hour after being introduced to reiki, this guy was tapped into my grand plan. I admit, I welled up a bit.
Thanks to all the staff at JTDC who helped make this event possible, to all the residents who were so willing to try something new, and special thanks to volunteers Rebecca and Patrice for giving their time and positive energy make this event memorable for everyone!
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Here's to raising awareness and availability of the benefits of reiki!
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