Now that I’m well on the road to recovery, it’s appropriate for me to send a special message of thanks to many Michigan prisoners.
Their response to my recent heart problems has me thinking about the words of Sister Helen Prejean when she was in town last fall. She could have been talking about my state of mind back when we formed HFP.
“I cannot walk away from this. I cannot put my head on the pillow at night as though this is not going on. And then by God's grace we move. We begin to take simple steps. We write letters, we do visits. I know how overwhelming it is. I know sometimes you must feel like you are the smallest little Rolaid in the biggest stomach in the world because there are so many needs. We go into prison, we turn to each other, and we keep going back. We make a commitment that we will not abandon them, that we will be with them and we will work for justice until the dawn comes, until justice comes in this one life…”
Nearly 20 years later, following my heart attack and subsequent triple-bypass operation, prisoners begin responding: get-well cards and letters, email messages, even phone calls. Not just a few. Loads of them! One card from the Handlon CF contained personal messages of 21 different guys! One woman from Huron Valley said, “We’re ALL praying for you!”
It’s two months after the surgery now, and I’m still opening another card. A little single-fold hand-made get-well treasure containing short notes from 17 inmates at Lakeland CF! Not just trite “get well soon” wishes…actual meaningful, personal messages.
These words from Sister Helen prompt my words of gratitude today:
“We meet people in prison, and once you cross that barrier and go and look in the eyes of this human being who others are saying is nothing but disposable human waste. And we go, ‘Oh my God, he's a human being!’ And then when we hear the stories and we put it against our own privileged, cushioned, protected life. We begin to develop a humility and gratitude. But we also develop a reciprocity of mutuality. After a while we begin to realize, ‘I’m not just going there for those prisoners. It's what they also give to me!’ The super people, the Super Christian people that go to those ‘poor prisoners’ and shower love and mercy on them…it's a one-way gift. NEVER! The best stuff is always going to be when it's mutual.”
Yes, I love what I’m doing. I love these prisoners. But I must confess: It’s what they also give to me!
My heartfelt thanks!