I'm thinking a lot about Maurice Carter these days. He was released from prison this week,in the year 2004. I've never experienced anything quite like it.
I'm not sure you can even imagine what it must be like to have been out of touch with the world for 29 years. The video camera had not been invented yet. No one knew what a cell phone was. The internet wasn't even part of the English language.
I had to teach him how to shop in a convenience store. He would pick out one item and take it to the counter, and the clerk thought he planned to check out. Not so, he was just setting it there while he went and looked for another item. I was forced to intervene before the frustrated clerk exploded.
Maurice Carter's presence in my life taught me many lessons, but there was this huge one: Enjoy the little things.
I still remember the day that I rented an apartment for another prisoner just released. He stood in his apartment late at night, and marveled at the experience. He told me the next morning that he enjoyed three things for the first time in ten years: being alone, being in the dark, and silence. All things that we take for granted.
If you have the opportunity, go to our web site today and read Charley Honey's column, written in 2004 after he and two other guys from the Grand Rapids Press paid a visit to Maurice. It's a poignant piece. You'll see that Charley captured exactly what I am saying now.
Yes, enjoy living in a free country, and enjoy the benefits of democracy...but also enjoy being able to go to the bathroom whenever you feel like it, having enough toilet paper, having heat or air conditioning to maintain a pleasant temperature, having a warm blanket on your bed, having silence when you need it, having medications and medical assistance whenever the need arises, and never living in the fear that you could be attacked at any moment.
May we all learn from Maurice.
And may we all show compassion to those still living behind bars.