Holly and I were huddled together in a coffee shop, discussing speeches. Holly, Vice President of HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS, is just beginning her speech-making activities for us. I’m nearly at the end of mine.
We reviewed shameful incarceration statistics in our country and in our state, the sad conditions and policies and methods of our Michigan prisons. Then we discussed the amazing progress made in services offered by HFP, our dedicated team, and the phenomenal growth of our activity rate.
As I explained to Holly, that’s what I use in speeches. BUT, I’ve come to the conclusion that change is needed. More must be said. After reflecting on powerful presentations by Father Greg Boyle and Sister Helen Prejean in recent years, I’m convinced that facts, figures and anecdotes are not enough.
It’s past time for all of us on the HFP team to answer two important questions: Why do we do this, and why you should care?
It’s no surprise to me that we’re now responding to some 700 messages a month from Michigan inmates and their families. HFP is doing something that no one else wants to do. Prisoners have discovered that somebody cares, and the word is spreading like wildfire.
This statement by Fr. Boyle perhaps best explains what prompts us to help the disadvantaged: “The wrong idea has taken root in the world. And the idea is this: there just might be some lives out there that matter less than other lives.”
He goes on:
“The strategy of Jesus is not centered in taking the right stand on issues, but rather in standing in the right place—with the outcast and those relegated to the margins.”
That’s what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. And why should you care? My favorite theologian, Frederick Buechner, puts it this way: Your life and my life flow into each other as wave flows into wave, and unless there is peace and joy and freedom for you, there can be no real peace or joy or freedom for me.
That’s what this old man’s gotta start talking about. And that’s what Holly must emphasize in her speeches. And that’s what the HFP team must remember as we struggle to stay ahead of the daily pleas for assistance.
We’re not dealing with facts and figures. We’re dealing with people!
“Somebody has to stand when other people are sitting. Somebody has to speak when other people are quiet.”