Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Tuesday ride

When discussing my emotions of any given day in this business, I often refer to a roller-coaster.

Today was a typical HFP day.

It began with my anxiety over saying the right things to college kids. I had agreed to speak to and interact with members of a Criminal Justice Class at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids. I always jump at chances like this. I love being with the future generation, and I enjoy telling our story. Yet there is always that uncertainty before the actual experience...what if they don't listen? What if they don't care?

That was not the case, and the roller-coaster reached a peak when a young woman quietly approached me after class to talk. "I'm going to start crying," she said. "I had just asked God to show me some place where I might be able to make a difference. Then I came here today and heard what you had to say. I don't know if you have volunteers. Is there anything I can do?" Tears streamed down her face.

Well, I'm not exactly sure what Valerie can do...we'll have to take it one step at a time. But I assured her that, if nothing else, she could become a prayer partner. We always have prayer requests. We agreed to stay in touch and to see where this leads. It was a beautiful experience. She heard me. She gets it.

Then I returned home to check messages. The roller-coaster began its descent.

I learned that a friend of HFP was executed this morning...just before that GVSU class started...killed by lethal injection by the State of Ohio. Brett Hartmann was only 38 years of age. For the past 15 years he had been claiming innocence, and he traveled every avenue of the court system to no avail. I have no way of knowing whether he was guilty. I know that Rubin Hurricane Carter once told me, as we worked on the Maurice Carter case, that any time a prisoner never gives up on his claim of innocence, "you'd better listen to him."

I know how I feel about the death penalty. I was there for my friend Anthony Nealy when the State of Texas put him to death. It's barbaric. I believe it's un-Christian, regardless of guilt or innocence, and regardless of the nature of the crime.

The roller-coaster hit bottom.

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