Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Free at last!

It’s enough to make a grown man cry.

I’ve personally watched only a few prisoners walk into freedom. I’ve seen more on film and video.

But I must tell you something. I have watched the miracle of child-birth. I’m sure that most people can tell about a specific “mountain-top” experience. But I can truthfully state that watching a person step out of prison creates its own unique set of emotions.

Two months ago I learned that a client, and dear friend, was to be released this morning. Marcia asked, “Are you going to get up early to be there?” “I wouldn’t miss it!”

I was there. I drove to a Michigan prison. I watched as my friend stepped out onto the sidewalk, with a grin from ear to ear. As his brother loaded him into the car, and as they sped off for the first meeting with his parole officer, my feelings of elation were quickly replaced with angry thoughts.

There could be no price tag on what this man lost. Here was a kind, civic-minded businessman, husband and father who had never been arrested for anything…a pillar in his community and church, an executive is his company. Now he’s an ex-convict, having been wrongly convicted, who spent nearly a decade in prison because some evil people decided to play a joke on him. Here was a man who had to take courses he didn’t need, who had to lie and grovel and show remorse before a hard-hearted parole board. Here was a man whose family was splintered, whose career was ruined, and whose heart was broken, and all because of just plain greed.

Somehow, I believe that God is going to forgive the performance he created to successfully convince the Parole Board. Somehow, I believe he’s going to climb higher than he’s ever been. Somehow, I believe he’ll be given a new life that could never have been imagined before. Somehow, he’s going to touch lives like he never did when he was the CEO of a thriving industry. He’s living proof that the Michigan Department of Corrections cannot break and ruin every life it touches.

I thank God that the lives of this man and mine have crossed. I am the richer.

It’s enough to make a grown man roll up his sleeves!

Doug Tjapkes, President
20 W. Muskegon Avenue
Muskegon, MI 49440

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