Richard Rossi
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        THE VALUE OF FRIENDSHIP
                            - A Writing By Richard Rossi September,  1999

When I decided to reach out to the outside world and find some friends, it was
back in 1986. I wrote to a number of colleges, pen pal organisations, church
groups, just about anyone who would hear me. I received some answers.
Believe it or not, I still have some of the friends I made 13 years ago. That in
itself says a lot about friendships.

Over the years I have become a writer and have attracted additional friendships.
This simple practice of letter writing is lost on many people. Before prison, I was
like many others, I did not write many letters and the mail just brought bills to be
paid. The telephone had supplanted the mail. It is not easy to find people who
care to write letters these days. The friendships I have developed through
letters have taught me so much. The letters from my friends are my life. They
enable me to endure this cruel and miserable existence. I see mayhem and
insanity around me every day of my life. Men who have no focus, no support,
no reason to live. Most engage in watching mind-numbing and senseless TV
comedies or other such programs, or they argue and exchange anger with each
other. All this in response to the pressure of the loneliness of death row.

I live for my letters with news from my friends. They have become my extended
family. They are the root system that keeps me anchored and in touch with
reality. Certainly a reason for living when little else remains. A Yin and Yang
surely exist here. It leads me to believe that perhaps there is more to life than all
the pain and suffering. After all, there is a dichotomy here. On the one hand, life
has dealt me a death blow, taken all I have, and replaced it with pain and
loneliness.
A life with little meaning and less value. A cul-de-sac of dead ends, worry and
frustration. But all is changed due to the unflappable spirit and love of total
strangers.

Who are these people? Why do they care about me, a person branded as the
"worst of the worst", a blight on society, a seemingly worthless individual?
Some would callously call these friends "do gooders", or "bleeding hearts".
However, this is not so - the truth lies beneath the surface. My friends have
become the essence of life to me. The meaning of life. For life without them
would be totally meaningless. I am certain that I would have pulled the plug on
this cruel hoax called life a long time ago were it not for my friends.

Bent as it would appear to be solely on revenge, what this uncaring society has
done by warehousing me and dismissing me as worthless has been countered
by my friends, who have restored my faith with love.  Unconditional love. I liken
my friends to doves of peace dropping seeds of love and support at random.
These seeds take root in the harshest of environments, even here in the desert.
The roots spread like daisy chains and anchor me to the world. So strong are
these roots that they withstand the constant tugging of those who see me as a
mere weed in their garden and desire only to eliminate me. Weeds have no
purpose and are killed. My life has been nurtured by my friendships. How much
strength I get to face this adversity is amazing. The cumulative effect of my
friends is that I have been taught the real meaning of brotherhood and love.
Rather than be left to bemoan the cold reality of my world on death row, and the
hardships it bestows on me daily, I consider myself to be an extraordinarily
fortunate and wealthy man. How amazing to find that love and compassion can
flourish even in this harsh desert wasteland! Although hatred and pain will
always exist, I have found that there is an antidote, that being the caring and
love that arrives in the form of letters that float through these prison walls like
magic, carrying a drug stronger than the poison of hate. You who write to me
have given me hope and strength, you have taught me the meaning of true
friendship and humanity. You have restored what society has tried to take from
me. It is not the length of life that matters, but rather the richness and quality of
life. Thanks to you, my friends, I have the knowledge that I have worth and value
as a human being.   -             Richard Rossi


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