Empathy, not only for prisoners, but for each other. Important!



The ability to understand and share the feelings of another. 

I’m quick with an opinion re the incredible success HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS has experienced with the incarcerated. It’s not what most organizations would boast about, because we often fail in our efforts to help the inmate as requested. Sometimes we get a partial victory. I’m convinced the real reason people behind bars love us is because we care! We listen. We do our best to assure them that, no matter how little or how much we can accomplish on their behalf, they matter! 

Earlier in life, I had a couple of “non-empathy” experiences. 

1981.  I had enjoyed a highly successful radio career until this year when, due to some incredibly unwise business decisions, my northern Michigan radio station went broke. I was devastated. I had no one to blame but Doug. My self-esteem was at an all-time low. Our corporate attorney recommended a lawyer who specialized in bankruptcy proceedings to help me. 

The meeting with this specialist and his assistant took place in a plush office. The two asked many questions. But it was obvious this attorney’s mind was not on my plight. He had a big lawn party coming up, and it’s all he could think about and talk about. He had traveled once to Rome and fell in love with it. He was planning a lavish Roman gala lawn party at his lavish home. It would cost thousands, but his guests would never forget it! 

I’ve never forgotten that rude conversation and the obvious lack of empathy for what was happening in my life.

2007.  Marcia and I were in Hospitality House of Huntsville, Texas… a ministry to families of prisoners about to be executed. We were sitting with my friend Anthony’s sister and her husband. Her brother was scheduled for lethal injection in a few hours, and she was wallowing in pain and suffering. As his spiritual advisor, I held her hand. We shared tears together. 

Nearby, the HH chaplain was welcoming a former chaplain whom he hadn’t seen in years. Two clergymen, one protestant and one catholic, obviously long-time friends. Friendly banter was a big part of their friendship, including many personal digs and insults. As we sat there in obvious pain, these two men of God who should have known better, didn’t let up with their jokes and insults. Laughter and tears didn’t mix well in that room. 

I later received profuse apologies from both, after filing a written complaint. 

I credit experiences like those with contributing to the formation of HFP’s present policy of compassion. 

…be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.

1 Peter 3:8 

Prisoners matter!


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