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Illustration by Brian Hindson

Blah, another Christmas in the federal prison system — the 13th to be exact. I know what to expect by now, so there are no real surprises. Sure, there will be groups cooking together, games being played and all the usual holiday stuff. I just try to stay busy and get through the day.

But Christmas Eve 2021 was different. I watched one of the “cars” — prison slang for a group of people bonded by geography, crime or nationality — gathering various commissary items into a trash bag. I figured they were doing something for one of their guys. That’s cool. But then as I was sitting at my bunk I saw a few guys stand up. I witnessed this group of guys from one car give a bag of stuff to a guy from a completely different car, who had no money coming in and could use some goodwill. I was floored. It made me smile. 

Then the next morning I got up at my normal crazy-early time and saw another fellow up who normally wasn’t. I figured he was struggling because Christmas morning can be hard for some people. 

I went to breakfast, which I rarely do. When I returned, I found a little gift of Little Debbie snacks with a note that said “Merry Christmas,” tied with red and green yarn. It wasn’t only on my locker. There was a package on the other lockers too. I was touched. How thoughtful. 

I looked over at the fellow who I thought had been in a funk over it being Christmas. I noticed him tying something and realized he was the one behind it. I walked over and whispered to him, “Your secret’s safe with me, Mr. Grinch.” 

I heard “Merry Christmas” repeated countless times all morning. People patting others’ backs, shaking hands, fist bumping and all that jazz. Humanity, kindness, well-wishing and the like all exist here. I imagine and hope it’s the same in other prisons across our country and world. Hope still exists!

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Brian Hindson is an artist whose favorite styles of work are impressionism and pop art. His work is published on the Justice Arts Coalition. Hindson is incarcerated in Texas.