It’s not always easy writing a blog. In fact this week was one of those weeks that I was desperately trying to think of a topic that is consistent with the messages I try to convey on these pages. Out of frustration I decided to just get out of the office and away from the computer. I emailed my wife and told her to meet me at pub across the street from her office.
After a wonderful lunch I was still short a topic. As I was driving back to my office I drove past Eastern State Penitentiary and right in front there was a parking space. I thought why not, I have my camera with me (no surprise there) and I have always wanted to tour the place during the day (previously I had only been there for Terror Behind The Walls, near Halloween). For $12 I could go in and forget my deadline and ignore that “whoosh” noise it makes as it goes by.
This place is a one of the cheapest tourist traps in all of Philadelphia and probably one of the best too. No one tries to sell you anything and all the guides are friendly and helpful (they must be from out of town). On top of that it’s really cool! Of course Al Capone’s cell is the most restored, but most of the place is falling down around you: debris, broken windows and concrete are everywhere.
It happened to be my lucky day too! Not only did I get a great parking spot, they were giving tours of some of the places not usually open to the public. I was able to see the chaplain’s office and the special murals on the walls, and also “The Hole” where prisoners were put for solitary confinement. I stand a hair under 6 feet tall (probably because I have no hair) and when I was standing in the ‘hallway’ in front of the solitary cells my head just touched the ceiling. Not a place I want to spend any time.
As I toured the rest of the prison I noticed all the cells, the conditions and how horrible it must have been in those days to have been stuck there for years. The idea that the only natural light many of the prisoners ever felt came from a tiny slit in the ceiling. The only other light came through the skylights but they were over the hallways and you would not feel the sun on your skin but you could see it just a few feet away outside your cell.
As I started to leave I began to feel a sense of gratitude wash over me; I was able to walk out when I wanted to. This got me to thinking (dangerous, I know) about how lucky I am.
When I was younger I was a borderline kid. I didn’t believe in school, authority, or anything most ‘good kids’ believe in. I had the choice to go down the wrong path and it would have been very easy for me to do. However for some reason I did the next right thing over and over until I got to where I am today, a man who owns his own business and has the chance to take a random Wednesday afternoon off to tour a decrepit old prison.
I am a lucky guy, I have freedom today and that is something that I often forget about. I think about bills, mortgages, payments and where the next job is coming from. Today I was able to take a few moments and understand what gratitude really is; I have to say that it is one of the best things I have in my life. Today I am free to worry about bills, mortgages, payments and where my next job is coming from.
All this gave me something to write about too. It gave me an Attitude of Gratitude.