Kindness: Not just a gesture, but a necessity!

The audience was rather small. Perhaps 30 people. But in that tiny gathering, there were four former clients of HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS! 

We had been invited by the Holland Museum to show Nate Roel’s award-winning video Behind Our Walls  as a part of their monthly Cultural Lens series. The film is a powerful documentary featuring the Calvin Prison Initiative project, an in-prison college program led by Calvin University and Calvin Theological Seminary. 

I want to tell you about the four HFP clients who were there. 

The first was Mark Hartman, our own Executive Director. Mark served 12 years for a crime he didn’t commit. His story leading to Humanity for Prisoners is a good one. He had never heard of us, but while in prison a fellow inmate gave him a copy of my book Sweet Freedom. Having been arrested in Berrien County, he was amazed at the similarities between his story and that of Maurice Carter. He wanted to meet the author. That led to a very special bond between Mark and me. Then, as a client of HFP,  we helped him, and he, in turn, helped us. Now he’s our CEO! 

Mr. M was also in the audience. He was paroled after serving 26 years of a life sentence. He and our Mark Hartman are not only friends, but fellow graduates of the CPI program. He had been a client of HPF for years. 

Then there was our former client Mr. G, who served nearly 32 years for a crime he did not commit. Even though he lives miles from here, he does his best to attend our events. 

Finally, I’d like to tell you about Mr. N. I had never met him, but he wanted to shake my hand. This was an emotional experience. Mr. N had been one of our clients, had been locked up for some 30 years, and had just recently been released! He drove from the center of our state to communicate a message. With tears in his eyes, he thanked me, along with HFP Board Chair Jim Niewenhuis, for the services we provide. It was the kind of thanks I wish our entire team could have heard. Thanks to Mr. N I was assured, in no uncertain terms, that HFP is not only well-known, but has an impressive reputation in Michigan’s 28 prisons. 

For the record: The accumulated time served by these four former clients tops 90 years! Today, all are productive members of society. That is the goal of HFP’s efforts to convince every incarcerated person that he or she matters!  About 90% of them will be released someday. One might even become your neighbor! 

Research suggests that kindness can bring joy by releasing oxytocin, a feel-good hormone. This can happen not only for the giver and recipient, but also for anyone who witnesses the act, who may even be inspired to be kind themselves.


And finally, these words from a saint: 

Get to know the poor in your country. Love them. Serve them.

Mother Teresa




MaryMargaret said…
Another beautiful Blog. Thank you for sharing your journey with us.


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