No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the Main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a Promontory were, as well as if a Manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
– John Donne, Devotions
Zossima was born left-handed, the only lefty in his family as well as the only know lefty in the small town where he grew up. In addition to this issue when he started kindergarten, he couldn’t see very well although one noticed at the time. Thus, he spent his first year of school being singled out as a lefty who was at best average in his abilities, getting his left hand spanked by the teacher every time he used it. In addition to being behind his peers in several areas of development, he was having to endure sexual abuse from his father at home. This abuse would continue until Zossima was ten years old when his older sister finally told a school counselor what was going on at home. One of the residual results of all these early childhood trials for Zossima was to leave him feeling disconnected from the people and world around him. He had extreme difficulty reading other people’s responses and so he didn’t fully realize the effects of his actions on others. Eventually this would land Zossima in prison for what turned
out to be a twenty-year stint.
After landing in prison, Zossima began looking for any sources of guidance to help him find his way out the spiritual as well as the physical prison in which he had landed. One day he came across a new publication in the prison chapel, Orthodox Journey, published by Father Duane, founder of the Orthodox
Christian Prison Ministry. In reading through this publication an experience from his childhood was touched upon and hope sprang up in his heart, hope that he could finally find the connection with the world he was missing. Feeling compelled to write and ask questions, he wrote to two of the people for
whom there were addresses in the publication, Father Duane Peterson and Father Jack Sparks. Through these two men, he would come to understand as John Donne understood: “no man is an island, entire of itself.”
Fast forward to today and Zossima is now working full time for the Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry answering all the correspondence from people in prison. Why is he doing this? Because he now understands that everyone is his neighbor, his kin, especially those in prison among whom he lived
for twenty years. Now Zossima has the opportunity to help others reconnect with themselves, their family, and the world. Following is a recent example from someone corresponding with Zossima and OCPM.
If you recall, several letters ago I shared with you that I had no relationship with my parents. Deep inside I knew what I needed to do but couldn’t bring myself to do it. At your prompting and guidance through an instructive article on how to write an amends letter, I wrote an amends letter to my parents. The result? Two days ago, I received a letter back from my father. He told me that they forgive me and they still love me very much. All glory to God but thank you for your guidance and direction in this situation. This is no small issue for me. It’s huge. Thank you.
My name is Zossima. Today my left hand does the work of the Lord as I correspond with those incarcerated. A little bit more of me is healed every time one of these people in prison experiences some healing of their own. I can’t imagine myself doing any other work, the work of helping people reconnect and find healing, a healing which extends to all of us because through Jesus Christ, no man is an island.