It’s not easy raising money to underwrite the work of HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS. As a professional fund-raiser recently explained to the chairman of our Board of Directors, “Potential donors want success stories!”
While we do have an occasional success story---we helped a sleep apnea patient get his CPAP device, we paved the way for a grant of commutation by the Governor, we found housing in a lovely facility for a dying inmate---more often than not, we fail. It’s kinda like climbing Sleeping Bear Dune: one step forward, three steps backward.
Here at HFP, it’s not like at the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, or Pacific Garden Mission. We can’t just spew out spell-binding success stories that touch heart strings and loosen purse strings. Daily we encounter almost insurmountable problems faced by struggling prisoners. Ergo, one of the most frequent methods of helping is, as I describe it, simply “holding hands.” Our Medical Director and I will discuss, for example, a situation where an inmate needs and deserves better medical care, but it just ain’t gonna happen. There’s no way the State of Michigan is going to grab that responsibility and pay the often-exorbitant cost. As a result, we wind up just “holding the prisoner’s hand,” assuring him/her that we care, that we’re trying, that we’re praying. That may be all we can do.
And yet, even when we met complete failure trying to help one of the women at Huron Valley, she sent me this short note: Thank you for continuing to advocate on our behalf. Without you, we would have no voice.
When I did my best to help a guy catch a parole, even speaking at his Public Hearing, but completely failed, he still said: Thank you for believing in me, where there are those that don't ... and want to see my corpse buried among the ashes of the many thousands that has been FORGOTTEN.
My HFP team and I see that as a success! To our professional fund-raiser, however, it falls short.
Father Greg Boyle encountered similar issues in his ministry of working with gangs: “Jesus was always too busy being faithful to worry about success. I'm not opposed to success; I just think we should accept it only if it is a by-product of our fidelity. If our primary concern is results, we will choose to work only with those who give us good ones.”
He concluded by quoting Mother Teresa:
“We are not called to be successful, but faithful.”
That IS success, in my book!