All writing is a form of prayer - John Keats

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Why “You Matter” matters!

In his new best-seller, Sparring Partners, John Grisham tells the story of Cody, who committed a crime at the age of 14 and was handed a death sentence. During his many years on death row he never had one visitor. BUT, something very interesting happened. 

A dear old lady in another state, as part of a mission project in her Lutheran church, chose his name to establish a pen-pal relationship. Not only did she send letters and cards, but she sent the inmate a book every week! 

Fast forward to the day of his execution. She paid him a visit in her wheelchair. 

Remembering that first letter, a tearful Cody said to her:  I read your name and I couldn’t believe it. Somebody out there knew my name, knew that I was on death row, and wanted to do something nice for me. Keep in mind, Miss Iris…I have no family anywhere. And no friends. Not a single friend until you came along. 

Last year, HFP President Matt Tjapkes implemented a new policy. Every email message to a Michigan prisoner (averaging about 100 a day!) would end with the words, “you matter!” 

It’s hard to imagine having no one…no friend, no mom or dad, no relatives. But you’d be surprised how many “Codys” there are behind bars! We hear it time and time again. 

Back in the early days of HFP, when it was still a one-man show, I was contacted by a group of inmates in Jackson. Their buddy, known as “Old Bill,” was dying, and he really didn’t want to die in prison. The problem: He had no one. No friends. No family. No place to go. Could I help? 

HFP could and did! We pulled strings here and there, and got Old Bill situated in a luxurious hospice facility that was nicer than most hotels I’ve stayed in. I stopped in to see him before he died. Weeping, he threw his arms around me. Someone cared! He mattered! That’s the way we do things here. 

It’s amazing how those two simple words touch the hearts of the incarcerated. Members of our team hear words like this every day: No one has ever said that to me! 

21 years ago, this agency got its start because a couple guys felt that people behind bars mattered. 

Today, all those on our board, our staff and our panel of volunteers, do what they do because of these words to Michigan prisoners: YOU MATTER!



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