By Edward Hudak
December 7, 2019
I am at SCI-Phoenix, a room by the West Chapel. We are having our monthly Community Workshop with guests from the outside. In the room are red plastic chairs, blinds on the windows, a table in the corner with an urn, coffee, tea, some candy and food—cookies mostly. We are setting up for what LCU calls the Wagon Wheel, a circle of chairs in the center facing out for the outside visitors to sit in. We residents have a circle of chairs facing the guests. We sit in front of each other, and we are prompted with some questions like, what were you thinking as you came to this workshop? This part of LCU helps us to put down the shields we have. We can be ourselves: real, honest. I am sitting across from a man from Eastern State Penitentiary. We are only inches from each other. We can smell the soap we used to wash with. I am listening to his voice explain about his day up to see us. It feels almost natural to be doing this, the fear of the unknown gone, the nervousness replaced with confidence. Interested in who this man is, what he thinks, it amazes me that even though we are strangers, we converse with such ease. I move to the next person, a young lady who is in college. We introduce each other, hear a new prompt, the answers flow from each of us as we connect, really paying attention. We are networking, growing into a relationship in a very short period of time. We are so relaxed, like we have been doing this together for years, like we have a history together. Never did we meet prior to this. The ease with which we talk, respecting each other, listening to each other, not interrupting, letting each other into our own space--it’s like pulling the curtain back on the Wizard of Oz—exposing oneself to be viewed however we come off—real, honest. I see smiles on their faces—so it must be okay. I move to the third person, then the fourth and so on, introducing ourselves again, looking into each others’ eyes. No hidden agendas on either part, taking in the experience, the exchange of ideas seemingly like we have been doing this for a while. It always amazes me how comfortable this exercise is, how it opens all of us up for the rest of the day. This is one of the beginning exercises so this really breaks the ice. From this we come together in these workshops to having beliefs about certain areas of life challenged or changed or just opened to new ideas. The LCU experience is one of the best experiences of my life.
--Edward Hudak, a godly man so full of life and energetic, who gives back to others, be it as a peer assistant in treatment, education, or just being there tutoring. He is a member of the LCU Steering Committee and workshop facilitator, who is also active in the Shakespearian theater troupe and continues to help others and himself become the best they can be.