The First Time I Felt Free

by Lisa, Crossroads Resident


A couple weeks ago in our processing group, one of the questions we were asked was, “When was the first time you felt free?” All of the women have different answers to this question, but my answer was, “The first time I felt free was riding on the bus
going to work. It was seeing families walk together, it was seeing cars go by on the street, it was seeing life existing and that I was a part of it. That is the first time I was finally able to exhale and take it all in.”


While serving 20 years in prison, I was always preparing for freedom. I wanted to go back to my family. I felt guilty for not being there, I felt that I needed to make up for the past. In some ways, I thought being with my family would be the easy choice. But, the more I thought about it, the more I realized I needed to be in a place where I was emotionally supported and encouraged to be self-sufficient. Coming to Crossroads offered me the counseling I needed, it offered me a place where I was with others who had been through similar experiences, and most importantly, a safe environment that helps me grow and heal.


Now, with less than a month left in the Crossroads program, I feel that freedom I felt on the bus every day. I feel it when I go to the library to do research for the women still in prison, I feel it when I serve the homeless at Urban Mission, I feel it when I am studying for my Driver’s License test. I know who I am, I have a good self-image, and I’m more equipped to deal with the real world. I can ask for help whenever I need it and I know I will be connected to Crossroads for the rest of my life.

From Where I Sit – Sr. Terry

I grew up in Lakewood … a short 35 miles from Claremont. As a kid in the 50’s, our backyards were safe havens. Typically, you could tell where everyone was, from the noise drifting over the rooftops. We played together, got into fights, plotted grandiose schemes, and dreamed of what life would be like when we “grew up.”

Recently, I’ve been thinking about the “life” that happens in the Harvard House backyard. Thanks to Life Bible Fellowship Church in Upland, it has been upgraded and transformed into a beautiful safe haven complete with a meditative bench in the “Lifer’s Rose Garden.”

However, what catches my interest each time I am in the backyard is the large tree that is central and provides significant shade to most of the area. In many ways it is representative of both Crossroads and the women we serve.

In my early days at Crossroads, it was more of a nuisance than anything else. It was mostly dirt and dried leaves below the scraggly branches, and it was impossible for grass to
grow beneath it. Sometime in the 90’s it was cut down to a stump that was a little too high for sitting but provided a good perch for brewing sun tea.

At some forgotten point in time, the tree took on a new life of its own. Shoots not only sprouted from the stump but completely overgrew it. A few women in the program, who had worked in forestry, took the tree into their care – pruning the right branches and allowing sunlight to filter through. The branches are twisted and scattered but today it provides a beautiful canopy of shade for the women to enjoy sitting outside … listening to the birds … writing in their journals … visiting with family and friends … a safe haven.

Sr. Terry