I’ve always been one to pick the good news.
As a broadcast journalist, I did my best to cover the bloody stories, the tragedies, the disasters, as well as the crimes and the crap. But I loved the good stories: tales of kind and generous people; and I loved the funny stories, the happy stories that brought smiles to the faces of my listeners.
Decades later, as I work with our team to help prisoners, I still opt for good news. So, it was a great day this week when I received an email from Adam, who had been in prison since 1993, saying, “I’m out! I’ll meet you for lunch!” That same day I stopped at the post office to pick up the mail, and spotted an unusual envelope. Opening it, I discovered a check from an anonymous donor for $25,000.00! Our bills would get covered this month!
I drove to the office, stepped through the front door with all of this good news, and Melissa interrupted me: “Doug, it’s Allen on the phone.”
Reality came crashing in.
I had chatted with Allen’s mother by telephone just an hour earlier. Her son, only 33 years of age, is in prison. A year ago, doctors discovered cancer behind his eye. The eye was removed, and part of his face, from the way it sounds. “They got it all,” she and her son were told. Not so. It’s back, it’s everywhere, and it’s not good.
Some might say that his mother is quick to blame the system. Not adequate treatment, not enough treatment, too little, too late. I think she’s right, but there’s no one who can or will do anything about it. These are poor black people, and he’s behind bars.
I took the telephone from Melissa. My heart broke as Allen tried explain his situation to me. His face is so deformed from surgery that he can’t speak very well. He’s in pain. He may have six months.
He and his mother want only one thing: they’d like him to be out of prison for his final days. That’s a huge challenge for HFP. Compassionate releases are difficult to obtain. Those who have read my book SWEET FREEDOM understand. The state is not quick to release prisoners, even when they’re dying.
I had done my best to reassure Allen’s mother that we would try, but I don’t dare share with her the reality of the situation. I tell her I'll pray for her, and her son. While on the phone, I do my best to comfort and reassure Allen, but I don’t dare share my cynicism, my pessimism.
These aren’t the fun stories, these aren’t the happy stories. These are the real stories,
Pray for Allen. Pray for us.