This morning I had a meeting with another community organization. I was presenting a new opportunity to work with fathers in our area and hoped they would help us. I have presented ideas, data, skills and a host of other information, to more organizations and ministries than I can count. I’ve never been asked to leave or had a bad experience but have had the occasional person I was talking to be looking at their phone, out the window or at their watch. Those presentations and discussion following seem to drag on forever. I’ve also had the organization be excited about the opportunity to partner with us. Most, however, are somewhere in the middle.
Today’s meeting was the exception because the woman whom I was meeting with was excited and had some great ideas as to how we could make part of our plan work at her location. She paid attention, listened intently, took notes, asked questions and made me feel welcomed and not rushed to finish so she could start doing something else. In other words, she was fully present in our time together. It was awesome.
It was a great reminder the difference we can make in other people’s lives if we invest our time, our kindness, our respect, and our lives in theirs.
Earlier this week I watched a powerful documentary on people being released from prison. It was a story of two men who were sentenced under California’s outdated and recently reformed Three Strikes Law. Simply stated the law demanded that any criminal who was arrested and found guilty three times received a harsh prison sentence often 25 years to life. After almost 20 years of being in place, the penal system and the citizens of California realized it wasn’t effective, led to overpopulation in the jails, severely impacted people of color, and left a trail of broken families in its wake.
The documentary follows two of the thousands of men who have been released for petty, non-violent crimes, after serving decades in jail. The transition for both of them was difficult, however, one was able to get back on his feet stay clean and sober, get married and be promoted in his job. The other man, who had a strong family and church structure, struggled mightily. Old demons such as drugs and mental health issues kept him unbalanced and unable to find his groove the way the first man did. At the end of the documentary both men were still out and making their way the best they could.
As I watched the film I couldn’t help but feel for both of these men. I work with men who are incarcerated and addicted. Addiction is a powerful force for evil and destruction. Incarceration can also be a doorway to a life of crime and recidivism but I’ve also seen men who learn how to make different choices so as not to end up in the same predicament.
Men who do three things greatly reduce their chance of going back to jail or getting back into their addiction. The first is having a positive home environment that might not necessarily be with their biological family. The second is a full-time job, a chance to do something and receive. The third might be most important and that is living a life around positive people, folks who will pull you up not drag you down. These three things, which most of us take for granted, will help men stay balanced, sure-footed, and on the path to a new life.
1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over you will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord watches over you the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all harm, he will watch over your life;
8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.
Heart Hunger –
This afternoon I attended a meeting where a speaker talked about babies born being addicted to drugs. The mothers of these soon to be born children were addicts of both prescribed and unprescribed drugs and when the baby emerged from the womb it too craved the narcotics.
It was heartbreaking to hear the stories of some of the moms. 85% were on welfare, didn’t have much in the way of education, lived in poverty and were receiving the help of many community and national organizations. What was even sadder was the moms knew their addictions were harming their unborn child and yet couldn’t break the cycle. The addiction had overtaken the heart of the mother and superseded their instincts to care for their soon to be born child. The hunger for being a good mom was less than the appetite for the drugs.
Our hearts, the souls, and spirits of us are powerful. They can give us the strength to overcome the greatest of challenges and reach heights unthinkable or take us to the depths of hell and nightmares unimaginable. Wisdom teaches us to choose today who we will be tomorrow. Choose carefully because our decisions mean life or suffering and death.