Many people acknowledge that we are all interconnected and what one does affects others by extension. But in the community of those affected by the incarceration (or criminal behavior) of a family member or friend is deep and wide.
Think of the siblings who are living productive lives, who watch their parents grieve and expend money, time and energy on the "problem child." It is sometimes difficult to find our own grief in the resentment and distractions of feeling abandoned because we are more functional, less needy.
Think of the grandparents who not only are frightened for their grandchild, but also with the wisdom of a lifetime, have an all too clear understanding of the challenges ahead. Plus they ache for their own child's grief and fear as they seek to find their way.
Think of those parents who ask themselves how they failed to properly equip their beloved child for a life that always includes temptations to take short cuts and sorrows to be processed. We wonder what we could have done differently and the urgency of our child's situation often leaves us with little time to process our own feelings, guilt and shame.
Think of the children who not only have a gaping hole in their lives where a parent should be; who also wonder if they have inherited in their own DNA or life experience that same stuff that caused their parent to be in such a mess. They generally have more financial challenges than their friends with "free world families" and often live within families full of such pain and fear and anger that they have a hard time finding someone safe with whom to talk about all this.
There are co-workers, neighbors and friends who know that they themselves have taken risks that could have brought disaster into their own lives and families. There are cousins and aunts and uncles who have their own uncertainties about what words might offer comfort and what might make things more difficult.
There are law enforcement folks and judicial folks and corrections/probation staff that look at the "law-breaker" wondering how this came to be, wondering if they will have to face a similar future with a wayward child that they love.
The friends of all these folks also stand and watch, longing to comfort and help but having little idea how to do so.
One small pebble of foolish, selfish, arrogant behavior and so many folks have changes and challenges in their own lives because of it.
If the current data is even reasonably accurate and one if fifteen (1 in 15) American's have been convicted of a crime that lead to incarceration or probation, and if each one of those has lives effecting by extension parents, spouses, children, grandchildren, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, co-workers, church family, neighbors and friends, then how many times in a day do we walk through those concentric circles of lives affected by the incarceration of another?