Writing prompt for a UAF Think Tank in November: We each experience ourselves in various spheres of our lives as insiders and outsiders. Sometimes our feelings and beliefs as insiders or as outsiders can help us, or more often, harm us, during our process of engaging with each other. We often carry past failures, doubts and criticisms into our current moment. Our beliefs can then limit who we connect to and what we are able to do together.

Explore in a few paragraphs, one or more thoughts or beliefs about yourself as an insider and outsider.

I am a little conflicted about choosing insider or outsider. I am a person on a journey, part of humankind and sometimes I feel like I belong and just around the corner find myself in a place where I feel excluded. I used to believe that we could divide the world into secular and sacred and desired to be firmly planted in the sacred inside. Through a time of spiritual formation I found that everything, everyone, everywhere is sacred… hope shines in the most desperate situation. As a suicide survivor, the mom of sons with chronic illness, one with severe mental illness, as an aging baby boomer with four generations in my home caring for my mom and grandchildren the reality and potential for disaster, tragedy and heartache exist.  I am part of a few clubs that entry into is because of harsh reality. After a recent brain surgery and multiple losses including my beautiful 91 year old mom, my boss found me and put my experience into community advocacy. She rescued me, brought me inside again.

This past 12 weeks I attended NAMI’s (National Alliance of Mental Illness) Family 2 Family class.  All of us feeling isolated and misunderstood by our community and then we came together for a couple of hours a week and found that we faced the same struggles, in fact others wrote a book about us.  What washed over me was knowledge that I am not alone. 

I am on a sacred journey as an insider. You are too. Because of my deep belief in the God of mercy and grace I have found comfort in His extravagant love that knows no boundaries, for God so loved the world and one day people from every tribe and nation will be at the table. The sweetest stories of redemption I have heard in the last month have been formerly incarcerated people who were given hope for the future allowing someone to hear their trauma, heal their wounds and participate in programs teaching a new way of interacting with the world.

As anyone who identifies as human I have faced rejection, judgement and criticism.  I have made mistakes, had lapses in judgement and as a wiser person I find myself unlocking the doors in our community to make a place for the formerly incarcerated.  Only an insider can unlock doors allowing the excluded to come home.

As a coalition coordinator I have the privilege of inviting everyone that has any interest in addressing the barriers of returning citizens to work together, a participant said to me recently… I don’t know why I come, I feel like I am an outsider.  Then he told me the stories of success and I realized that we must do more than talk about barriers and gaps in services.  One man can make a difference, but together we can change everything. We need to celebrate our strengths. I assured him that he belonged and we needed his voice at the table.

Linda Setterberg

As the Fairbanks Reentry Coalition Coordinator,  my job is to bring agencies and people to the table to give reentering citizens the keys to successfully achieve their personal goals.