Showing posts from October, 2021

God doesn’t make junk, but prisons do!

God don’t make no junk!   50 years ago, long before those words appeared on rock music album covers and on t-shirts, I saw that phrase scribbled with crayons on a white sheet of paper. It was tacked up on the wall of a tiny office, occupied by a sweet woman who worked with challenged youngsters. I never forgot it.   I’m thinking of those words today, seething, after receiving an absolutely devastating report on one of the prisoners we helped obtain freedom. I’ll just call him John Doe, because his isn’t the only story of its kind. It happens to incarcerated John Does every day.   As a young black kid John got into some petty crime. A white judge decided he was going to make an example of him, and sent him to prison with a heavy sentence. It was more than 40 years before John was able to get a parole, and that was thanks to some help from our gang. But, I’m afraid the damage was irreparable.   Research shows that life behind bars can and often does eliminate meaning and purpose

Maurice H. Carter March 29, 1944 - October 25, 2004

This was a rotten weekend 17 years ago!   If you check the calendar, you’ll find that the 2004 and 2021 dates are identical.   On Friday, October 22, 2004, my pal Maurice Carter was in the hospital. Up until then, we had hope that Maurice could still get a new liver...his only hope for survival. But on that fateful weekend, all hope dissipated.   I went to visit him at Butterworth in Grand Rapids...unconscious, no response.   I returned on Saturday the 23rd, only to be advised that I would have to wear protective gear. He had gone “full code.” Everything had shut down and he was in a coma. It was the beginning of the end.   He died in the early morning hours of October 25.   Maurice would have enjoyed our 20 th Anniversary Observance of HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS a few days ago. After all, the whole organization was formed as a result of his dream.   For those who haven’t read the story, Maurice spent 29 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. In the years that I spen

Most people never listen: Hemingway

  "Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you'd have preferred to talk." --Doug Larson   As the host of a daily radio talk show for more than 15 years, I learned some very important lessons. One of the best ones, the most meaningful, was the importance of listening.   You’ll see and hear broadcasters who still haven’t received that message day in and day out on radio and TV. They claim to be interviewing, but they’re not listening to their guest. They’re simply nodding, and thinking about the next question they’re going to ask. Early on in the business, I learned that interviewing isn’t Q and A, it’s discussion! And meaningful discussion only happens when all parties listen.   I’m harping on that topic today, because last night HFP CEO Matt Tjapkes introduced breaking news. He announced the formation of HFP’s first Client Advisory Committee. As you know, our clients reside in Michigan prisons. This has been a dream of our President for years:

Feeling blessed! Celebrate with us!

If you want to really see how God blesses, you’d better pay attention!   Example.   When we formed a little male chorus called HIS MEN in 1972, we hand-picked 13 guys whom we already knew had good voices, were able to read music, and probably would enjoy singing together. Here’s the thing that I believe God really honored: The singers were not impressed with themselves!   We weren’t in it for the money (we sang for free or for worthy Christian causes, and took not a cent for ourselves), we weren’t in it for the fame and glory (we avoided concert halls in favor of prisons, nursing homes, orphanages and children’s hospitals), and we weren’t trying to impress fellow musicians (we chose tasteful and fun arrangements of favorite hymns, instead of difficult and challenging anthems).   I have always felt that, as a result, God quietly blessed us in such an amazing way. I think I’m a pretty decent choir director, but I could never take credit for that heavenly sound! That was divine in

I'm hoping we meet next Tuesday!

Anniversaries, especially for stores and organizations, are a great time for celebration. “It’s our 20 th Anniversary Sale!” “50 years in business, and you’re invited to celebrate with us!” We read these ads in the newspaper, and we hear these loud and noisy commercials on television.   Meanwhile, August 29, 2021, quietly came and went. That was the date, 20 years earlier, that we signed legal documents forming an organization now called HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS. No fanfare. No celebration. No fireworks or confetti.   Instead, our small team of workers and volunteers kicked butt, trying to answer the calls and pleas for help from hundreds of Michigan prisoners. Sometimes up to 2,000 calls a month!   Well, to be clear, we are going to celebrate.   Next Tuesday, October 19, is the date for our annual HFP Community Author Lecture Series. Due to COVID, nobody will be attending because we can’t hold it in a public hall. It’s anybody’s guess how many will actually celebrate with us,

Making things easier cannot be good for you!

I’ve come to this conclusion. Whether it’s public elections or public records, tightening of rules is not for your benefit. The stated reasons for these tightened restrictions bear no resemblance to the truth. The real reasons, frankly, are nefarious. I bring up the matter of elections because I read in a news story this week that officials are making it more difficult to apply for absentee ballots in Michigan. Now I’m reading this stuff every day about how states are implementing new rules and procedures that make it more difficult to vote, and that seems so counter-productive to me. Don’t we want everyone to vote, to make easier for everyone to vote? How about automatic voter registration when you get a driver’s license? How about making election day a national holiday?   The stated reason: We’re trying to prevent fraud in our elections. My interpretation: We’re trying to make it harder for those people who oppose our ideas to vote.   The same is true for FOIA requests.   In