All writing is a form of prayer - John Keats

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Thanks for friends; thanks to friends. All behind bars!

 “Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.”

– Muhammad Ali 

It should come as no surprise when I tell you that I have many friends behind bars. However, the depth of that friendship, in many cases, surprises even me. A perfect example of that is the in-prison response to the message that Matt had lost his mom, I had lost my wife, Marcia. 

As soon as the word filtered into the prison system, messages of condolence started arriving. 

Keep in mind that my friendship with these men and women is a long-distance one. Granted, I have visited with some, chatted by phone with some, and met some while on speaking engagements in prisons. But, it’s not an intimate type of relationship where we spend time over a cup of coffee or a beer, sharing our innermost thoughts. In fact, very few prisoners knew Marcia. Yet, it seemed as though, when I was hurting, many of my friends were hurting as well. 

Prisoners don’t purchase sympathy cards. They use their artistic skills to craft beautiful cards from scraps of paper and cloth. The cards began arriving. Then cards with multiple signatures arrived. Every person who signed the card also conveyed a short message of hope and encouragement, of kindness and compassion. 12 women who reside in Huron Valley. 21 men in Chippewa CF. 25 in Lakeland CF. 26 in Handlon. 45 residents of the Muskegon Correctional Facility, each one with a personal message and a signature! 

How often have I thought about sending a note or a card, but never quite got around to it? How often have I just sent a card without adding a personal note? 

These men and women have demonstrated genuine compassion and friendship. In response, may God give me the courage and ability to live up to this passage by theologian Frederick Buechner: 

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.

My friends! I love 'em!


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