Why I Say Thank You From Federal Prison

It’s Tuesday, November 25, 2008. I read a terrific article in the USA Today Life section by Kim Painter. The article addressed gratitude and the effect that thanking people has on our health and well being. Here’s an excerpt: “People with high blood pressure not only lower their blood pressure but feel less hostile and are more likely to quit smoking and lose weight when saying ‘thank you.’ Those who maintain a thankful attitude lower their risk of depression, phobias, bulimia and alcoholism. Lastly, most people can lift their mood simply by saying thank you or by writing a thank you letter.

Constantly writing to loved ones has enhanced my prison experience. On days when I’m feeling blue, I’ll pick up a pen, grab a piece of paper and just write. I can write anything and that’s comforting. Seven months into my confinement the contents of my letters have changed dramatically. The first letter from a loved one in prison should vary from the 20th. It’s important that my readers feel the growth and development of my incarceration.

While the opening and body of my letters vary, the closings remain the same. I always thank my family and friends for their continued love. I thank them for writing, for visiting, for sending money and for not judging me despite my crime. I remind everyone that I’m safe and will be home soon. I apologize for the pain and stress I’ve caused and assure them that I’ll depart prison stronger than when I arrived.

Prison opens opportunities for introspection. Through 7 months in prison I value the lessons I’ve learned. Prior to my incarceration, I behaved rather selfishly a great deal of the time and didn’t always say thank you enough. Those are mistakes I won’t make again. Prison has helped me appreciate the value of my family and friends more. This discovery was not something I expected but I certainly appreciate it now.

Justin Paperny

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