When expressing concern for prisoners, some people like to quote: “Don't worry about tomorrow” (Matthew 6:34). Having spent some time in prison with inmates who are serving long sentences or who have been sentenced to "life imprisonment," I have a few thoughts on this. In a way, worrying about tomorrow is a privilege for inmates.
Prison is a very different place from the outside world. Strange as it may sound, through all its limitations, it brings out a person's spirituality. When you're behind bars with little else but yourself, that shows what someone's made of.
Look at the books and newspapers people read, the news they follow, the TV or radio shows they are interested in, the foods they eat, and the topics they discuss with others – then one develops a better understanding of those who are “not worried about tomorrow”.
Many think that prisoners brood over the outside world a lot, and consider this to be the greatest suffering of inmates. But the truth is, they suffer because they have no family and friends, no worries about, and no desire for, the outside world. Because if there is no vision or expectation, there is no need to worry about tomorrow. This is the really distressing situation.
That is why it is so important to maintain one's will and sanity, not to lose one's imagination and curiosity about the outside world, and not to let one's passionate interest in other things and people fall asleep.
The wall around us draws the mind to the few tangible things available to us here in prison. If you insist on more, you hope for less - you increase your psychological stability. It's a reminder to think about how to look beyond the concrete constraints of circumstances to where the heart is. It's not just in prison. But for any other adverse situation.
It's not about redefining every problem as a positive opportunity. But when we're overwhelmed by problems, maybe we can try to see the value of worrying about "tomorrow."