Journal Entry: John Dalaly-12/19/2023-Diversity and Christmas

Journal Entry

As the Christmas holiday season unfolds within the confines of Hazelton prison, I’m struck by the diversity of faiths and backgrounds that converge in this place. It’s a microcosm of the world outside, a melting pot of beliefs, experiences, and traditions. Here, I’ve had the privilege of interacting with people of Jewish, Muslim, Eastern faiths like Buddhism, and many others. While the holiday season is often associated with Christian traditions, I see it as an opportunity for all of us, regardless of our backgrounds, to come together in unity and shared humanity.

The Prison Mosaic of Faith:
Inside these boundaries of the prison camp, I’ve encountered a kaleidoscope of faiths and perspectives, each person’s journey unique and meaningful. Some find solace in the teachings of the Torah, while others bow in prayer toward Mecca. There are those who follow the path of mindfulness and meditation, and many more who carry their own spiritual practices and beliefs.

Yet, despite our differences, I’ve witnessed a remarkable sense of respect and curiosity among people in prison. We ask questions, share stories, and embrace the chance to learn from one another. It reminds me of the fundamental human need to connect, to understand, and to appreciate the beauty of our diversity.

Christmas: A Season of Unity:
As the Christmas season envelops us, I find it particularly fitting to reflect on the message of unity and love that this holiday embodies. Christmas is not just a Christian celebration; it’s a universal reminder of the importance of compassion, generosity, and the bonds that connect us all.
In a world that often seems divided, Christmas calls upon us to come together and celebrate our shared humanity. It transcends religious labels and cultural boundaries, inviting us to embrace the values of peace, goodwill, and the spirit of giving. It’s a time when we can focus on our similarities rather than our differences, nurturing the sense of unity that is at the core of our existence.

Living in Gratitude:
Being apart from my beloved family during this holiday season is undoubtedly challenging. The absence of my eight grandchildren, my three daughters, and my wife of over 45 years weighs heavy on my heart. However, I’ve learned that dwelling on what we lack can blind us to the abundance that surrounds us.
Through prayer and reflection, I’ve been able to shift my perspective. I’ve realized that while I may not be physically present with my family, I can still be there for them in spirit. I can use this time to focus on what I can control—the impact I can make within these prison walls and the lessons I can share with others.

A Biblical Reminder:
One verse from the Bible that resonates with me during this season is from the book of Matthew 18:20: “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” It reminds me that the essence of Christmas isn’t confined to grand gatherings or lavish festivities. It’s about coming together, even in small ways, and recognizing the presence of something greater than ourselves.

Critical Thinking Questions:

How can the holiday season, regardless of one’s faith, serve as an opportunity for fostering unity and understanding among diverse communities?

In what ways can we find gratitude and focus on what we can give, rather than what we lack, during challenging times or separations from loved ones?

How can the message of Christmas be applied to our daily lives, beyond the holiday season, to promote empathy and connection with others?

As I continue my journey within these prison walls, I hold on to the spirit of Christmas as a reminder of our shared humanity and the potential for unity, understanding, and growth that resides within each of us. May this season inspire us all to reach out to others, embrace our differences, and celebrate the love and compassion that connect us all, no matter where we find ourselves.