I'm reading and listening with interest as political candidates prepare for public debates. From what we see and hear, it takes a lot of coaching and prepping.
I've been thinking about that since last Sunday.
My friend Lois DeMott, mother of a mentally challenged teenager in the Michigan prison system, had been booked to speak to an adult education class in our church. In preparation for that, we wondered about her presentation, and we even discussed a computer-based program with charts and a screen. But as things got more complicated, we decided to scrap the plan and go with something simple. We would just have Lois tell her story...the story of a single mom, going through the hell of worrying 24/7 about a mentally ill son behind bars. And it could not have gone better.
The only prop she needed was a box of Kleenex for occasionally wiping her eyes.
The presentation was riveting, as I knew it would be. Most of the people in an audience like this are parents. Just imagine what it's like, listening to a mother describe situations like this:
-a son who is so mentally disturbed he keeps cutting himself, breaking light bulbs or whatever is necessary to find something sharp
-having guards hog-tie a lad so that he cannot stand up or sit, and cannot reach the toilet so he must use the floor
-having guards open the window in January to make the cell colder, as your son remains hog-tied wearing only his underwear
-learning that the prison staff had to revive your son after finding him hanging in the cell, after you made a point of warning them about uncertain messages
-having your son transferred more than 200 miles away, to make it more difficult to arrange visits
-or worse yet, having your visits terminated for several months as a means of treating your son's mental illness.
There's nothing like the truth to touch the hearts of an audience, and that's exactly what Lois did. No props necessary, thank you.
And for those who are wondering...there's good news. There are reliable reports that Kevin is finally going to be released to get the care he so desperately needs.
He was arrested on a goofy charge at the age of 13. He's 19 now.
Please remember, especially, those prisoners who are mentally ill in your prayers. Their families, too.