Friendship: Love, Respect, and Inclusion

Andrew and Geralyn

Andrew Stanton was referred to RISE through his relationships in the community, and is always looking to network and build more of these connections. RISE is thrilled to begin the blog with Andrew’s refreshing perspective.

Friendship is a profound idea, but many of us take the concept of friendship for granted. For some, relationships come naturally. We all desire friendship and a sense of belonging. We need to be loved, respected and included. Isn’t it wonderful to think of a world where everyone is afforded these simple rights? Geralyn and I are friends.

It’s sad to think how one mistake could render a person unworthy of friendship. As a society we make a habit of turning a person’s mistake into their life story. Often people who buy that story have not taken the time to know the whole person. It’s powerful to think of a person’s story written in a different light, by different authors — people who know the whole person. These people are the ones who have helped me tell my whole story. They understand my strengths, accomplishments, flaws and mistakes. They know each piece, including my past mistakes and my hopeful future. They work in partnership with me to help create a good and meaningful life.

Geralyn and I did not know each other before I went to prison. Geralyn could have chosen the story of “mistake” and I could have done the same. During a conversation, Geralyn related: “We met with a glass wall between us.” A literal glass wall. Even without the barrier of prison, we find there are so many walls built up, we must tear them down before we can build a true, lasting relationship. She continued, “I remember thinking how important it was to be there because you were happy we were there.”

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We need people to show up. Imagine how my life might have been different if no one was there — if I went to those visitation days and each time the seats were empty. As our visits continued, Geralyn realized “how important our future relationship could become” — not just for me but for herself. She kept showing up, learned we shared interests, and continued to be the friend I needed in my life.

I like to think I did the same for Geralyn. Geralyn and I continue to maintain our relationship by cooking with one another and exploring new foods. But trying new foods together isn’t the only risk we take. Entering into a friendship is always a risk, but it’s one that should be taken to build a life that is full of the good things. Geralyn related it beautifully and simply: “Take a chance. People are good. Everyone deserves a friend.”

Call to Action - Make a coffee date with any formerly incarcerated citizen and hear their story. Take it from Andrew: The power of friendship can make all the difference.

Blog written by Andrew Stanton, Katie Anderson and Geralyn Sparough