Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A Fascinating, imaginative way to Serve! When it comes to interesting ways to solve a problem, Lynn Zwerling might win the prize. In late 2009, Zwerling stood in front of 600 male prisoners at the Pre-Release Prison Unit in Jessup, Maryland. Her opening line was "Who wants to knit?" The burly men were taken back with the idea. But Lynn Zwerling assured them that men had invented the craft. Nearly two years later, Zwerling and her associates have instructed more than 100 prisoners to knit, while dozens more wait to take her weekly class. "I have guys that have never missed one time in two years," comments Zwerling. "Some have reported that they miss dinner to come to class." Even though the men were reluctant at first, complaining that knitting was too girly or difficult, they yielded to a five-minute knitting lesson and, as Zwerling puts it, "the men found zen and became hooked." The Warden worried about freely handing out knitting needles to prisoners who had been convicted of violent crimes so it took five years before her idea was accepted. Assistant Warden, Margaret Chippendale, is on record that the men involved with knitting get into trouble less often. "It's very positive because you can see when you go into the room, the dynamics of their conversation; very calm, very soothing," Chippendale says. "It radiates even when they leave the room and go out into the institution." Richy Horton, 38, served almost four years at the Pre-Release Prison Unit and reluctantly joined the knitting class six months prior to release. Horton’s reaction was "I’m not going to that thing. And then I went to class and you were actually speaking to real people. People can’t really understand that in prison you’re completely separated from anything normal or real in the world. You’re always told what to do and when to do it, so to have people come in and treat you like a human being means so much. They came in and they were like my mom." The men started by knitting comfort dolls, which they gave to children removed from their homes because of domestic issues. Then they moved on to hats for kids at the inner-city elementary school. Each week the men eagerly await the women's arrival, then promptly get to work. "It takes you away a little," Horton says. "You have to watch what you’re doing, otherwise your stitches will become loose or tight or you’ll skip stitches. It almost makes you feel like you don't have to be anything. You’re all sitting there knitting. You can just be yourself." Kudos to Lynn Zwerling for coming up with a great way to offer service. She gets to share her passion and the men get to relax and be themselves and offer service to the community. Win, win, win! To reach Jean Walters, Transformational Coach, Author and teacher, call 314 991 8439 or jean@spiritualtransformation. Author of: Set Yourself Free: Live the Life YOU were meant to live! and Be Outrageous: Do the Impossible - Others have and you can too! (Believe in yourself and rekindle your spirit)