Lessons from Alcatraz that I keep on my fridge

By Ruth Limkin

I have a small magnet on my fridge. It’s from Alcatraz Prison, and lists Regulation 5 – “You are entitled to food, clothing, shelter and medical attention. Anything else you get is a privilege”.

I bought it as a humourous reminder of a holiday and of a wonderful day exploring what is now a tourist attraction. However, I also bought to remind me of something very important.

It’s sometime difficult not to get distracted by our own abundance. It can be so easy to forget that both our geographical and socio-economic position affords us resources and opportunities that so many people around the world would envy. Having access to food, clothing, shelter and medical attention makes us fortunate, and having anything beyond that makes us truly rich and truly privileged.

I thought of Regulation 5 again today. I had just I read with horror the news that an Indian woman had been burnt to death by her husband and in-laws. Her ‘crime’ had been giving birth to girls. Her husband had wanted a son, yet she had birthed two daughters in a culture where girls are often despised and female infanticide (the killing of baby girls) is all too common. Such terrible things are a very sad reminder that many cultures place little value on women and girls.

It’s because such suffering exists that I want to remember Regulation 5.

If we view our resources and opportunities as something we are entitled to, we tend to live for ourselves. Yet if we view our resources and opportunities as something we are entrusted with, then we are far more likely to live for the last and the least.

I want to make the most of every opportunity I have, for the sake of those who have so few. I want to use my resources wisely, to honour those who have so little.

Though I will sometimes fail, this will remain my aim – to live entrusted, not entitled.

How very unusual that it was a trip to Alcatraz that provided my daily reminder.



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