MARCH 26, 2009
I don't know of anybody who has ever said a prayer over a car. I did this morning.
I had to drive to Jackson to pick up a prisoner who planned to walk free at 8 AM, after serving 11 years for two crimes he did not commit. My mode of transportation would be a 2000 Avalon with 211,000 miles on the odometer. There could be no more fitting way for this fine car to end its prison career!
It was pitch dark when I walked up to Sir Avalon at 5:30 AM, placed both elbows on the roof, folded my hands and prayed that this wonderful vehicle, now almost ten years old and starting to feel its age, being carried along on balding tires, would make one more prison trip without problems.
If you've read my book SWEET FREEDOM, you'll remember that this was the car that carried me into the inner city of Benton Harbor, looking for the shooter who allowed Maurice Carter to serve time in his place.
The Avalon heard me weep when the court refused to grant a new trial to Maurice.
It heard me shout when Governor Granholm granted commutation of his sentence.
It felt my tension as we drove to Jackson to meet the Carter friends and family members who would be on hand to see him walk out of prison.
It carried me, for the past nine years, as far south as Adrian and Coldwater---as far north as Munising and Marquette, Michigan---to visit with prisoners, help them with their parole interviews and testify at their public hearings. It overheard my anguished prayers following many of those visits.
Today, I made the round-trip without a problem, guardian angels perched on every corner of the vehicle!
Nothing can compare with the expression on the face of a prisoner, taking his or her first tentative steps into the free world! My heart rejoiced.
In the past decade the Avalon has served magnificently! Yes, someone will "low-ball" me when it comes to selling the car as it heads toward well-deserved retirement. The vehicle seems to have little monetary value any more. But in my efforts to touch prisoners with love and compassion, it has been a part of my life. That goes beyond dollar figures.