Monday, November 23, 2009

Free Seminar -- Nurturing Your Mind, Body, and Spirit

On Saturday, December 5th from 10:30 to Noon, there will be a meeting on the second floor (Room 209B) in the Brandywine Library at 1300 Foulk Road in Wilmington, Delaware facilitated by Tom Lagana. Join us for inspiration, guided meditation, and spiritual exercises that will nurture your spirit, increase your self-esteem, and help you realize what you want to see show up in your life.

Please invite others who may be interested and RSVP by e-mailing

Several of our books will be available for sale at these meetings to help support our prison ministry. They also make excellent Christmas gifts and can be personally autographed.

Special Project:
Our prison ministry corresponds with hundreds of inmates each year. When planning your Christmas and holiday cards this year, please write some words of wisdom and encouragement in a card for a prisoner. Our prison volunteers will address and mail the cards. You may sign your first name if you like, sign it “Someone who cares,” or leave it blank. Please leave the envelope blank, unsealed, and place a stamp on it, and bring to the meeting above. New or used inspirational, soft-cover books may also be donated, especially “Chicken Soup for the Soul” titles.

Please send positive energy and pray for those often forgotten souls behind bars that they will know that someone cares about them and that they will be inspired to become productive members of society.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Christmas Story to Reprint -- Dear You

The following story is available to re-print in your newsletter, magazine, or newspaper. Those interested may e-mail: for a Word file version. The pdf version is linked at:

Dear You
By Tom Lagana
from “Serving Productive Time”

One cold November morning, I stopped by the emergency room of our local hospital to see if they could use my volunteer services. My official volunteer day was Thursday, but since I was already downtown that Saturday, I thought I’d offer to help out.

As I entered the triage area, one of the nurses waved and called out to me. “Tom, I need to see you after I check on my patient. I’ll be right back.”

“Sure, Nicole,” I answered. “I’ll be here.” I couldn’t help but wonder, What did I do now?

Minutes later she reappeared and explained, “I’m glad you’re here today. My nine-year-old daughter decided to do a project on her own. It has to do with the Seven Corporal Works of Mercy.”

Out of the blue, I had a flashback of my Catholic school days. “Sure, I remember them well. The nuns made us memorize them in grade school.” I rattled them off in my head: Feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned, bury the dead.

“Then you know that one of the corporal works is to visit the imprisoned. A few months ago, I recall your mentioning that you also volunteer at the prison. I want to ask you for a favor. My daughter wants to make Christmas cards for prisoners, but she doesn’t know how to go about getting them to the inmates. Can you help us?”

“Of course. I plan to visit the prison before Christmas anyway, and I’m sending letters to inmates in other states. Her cards will be a welcome gift for everyone who has to spend Christmas behind bars.”

“Thanks, Tom. She’ll be thrilled. I can’t wait to tell her.” Then Nicole disappeared into another room to tend to her next patient.

The following Thursday, when I reported for my usual ER shift, thirty-one handmade Christmas cards were waiting for me, just as Nicole had promised.

Early the next morning, I sipped my coffee and read the cards with my wife, Laura. Each one-of-a-kind, handcrafted card was created on construction paper of various colors of the rainbow. They moved us to tears.

Dear You,
God watches over you all the time. If you turn your back on Him, He’ll still be there and still protect you.

Dear You,
You know how when you meet somebody, but you can’t trust them? Well, you don’t have to know God to trust Him. He’ll never turn you down.

Dear You,
You don’t have to impress God. I’m saying that because usually people think they have to. Life is about making mistakes and learning from them.

Dear You,
God has a plan for everyone. Maybe this wasn’t His plan for you, but this is just the beginning. Everything will be okay.

Dear You,
I have faith in everyone. Maybe you did some stuff wrong, but everyone deserves a second chance. Even though I don’t know you, I believe in you. For Christmas, will you do something for me? Pray to God. Merry Christmas.

Dear You,
Never call yourself a failure. Yes, maybe you messed up in the past, but we all mess up. Hey, God is always there. Merry Christmas.

Dear You,
You probably think badness is all around you. Well, look beyond the badness and see God standing there saying, “I love you.” If you try hard, maybe you can see the same thing. Don’t worry. God never takes a break.

One week after sending out some of the cards, the responses began rolling in from inmates. Have a look at a few examples:

The first thing I want to do is tell you that I thought the Christmas card from the little girl was absolutely priceless! It warmed my heart when I got this, and I’d have to say that it was the best Christmas card I’ve ever received. Please be sure to tell her that I said, “Thank you.” I showed it to several of the guys around here, and then sent it home to my parents.
Dave LeFave (Colorado)

That card from the little girl made me feel good. What a wonderful heart she must have to be so kind. In these places you learn to put your emotions in a box, but her card got through that wall I’ve built. It felt great to get behind that wall for a bit and feel the warmth she put there. I couldn’t have asked for a better Christmas gift.
Charles Carkhuff (California)

The card from the little girl was so touching. Enclosed is my handmade thank-you note for the little girl who took the time and effort to make it. Please convey my gratitude to her mom as well.
John Schmidt (Delaware)

A nine-year-old made thirty-one cards like the one you gave me and wanted them all sent to prisoners? Wow! Must be quite a little girl to be so altruistic so early in life. When I was nine years old, I was busy dreaming about Luke Skywalker, not asking prisoners to pray. Makes me wonder what she’ll become.
Matt Matteo (Pennsylvania)

Matt Matteo also enclosed an original drawing depicting an inmate on his knees, praying fervently in his cell. When I saw it, I was filled with emotion. Then, after turning the illustration over, I saw this notation:

Dear You:
Thank you for believing in me and for believing in giving second chances. I really value the card you made for me.
Thank you,

Sketch reprinted by permission of Matt Matteo.

Dear You. Reprinted by permission of Tom Lagana. © 2009 Tom Lagana from the book “Serving Productive Time: Stories, Poems, and Tips to Inspire Positive Change from Inmates, Prison Staff, and Volunteers” by Tom Lagana and Laura Lagana. See website:
Tom Lagana is a professional speaker, trainer, author, engineer, and volunteer. He is a recipient of the Jefferson Award for Outstanding Public Service in Delaware and coauthor of “Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul.” He and his wife, Laura, are coauthors of “Chicken Soup for the Volunteer’s Soul,” “Serving Time, Serving Others,” “Serving Productive Time” and “The Quick and Easy Guide to Project Management.” They present and facilitate workshops, programs, and seminars for inmates and volunteers across the United States. He many be contacted at P.O. Box 7816, Wilmington, DE 19803, phone 302-475-4825, e-mail:, or website:

Friday, November 13, 2009

Comments from Inmates in Maryland and Virginia

“The stories in Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul made me feel better, grateful, and not so sad with self-pity. Thanks for remembering us in prison with this book.”
-- Kevin
Cumberland, Maryland

“Through Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul, I found hope in a seemingly hopeless situation.”
– Joseph
Suffolk, Virginia