Hearing is Believing –
A driver slid off the road during a snowstorm. His cellphone was useless and so he walked until he found a house with an old mule munching on some hay near a barn in the backyard. He knocked on the door of the house and a farmer answered. The man explained his predicament and the farmer said he’d help. The farmer put on a coat, exited the house and walked over to the old mule, put a bridle on it and the three walked back to the car. As they were traveling the driver of the car wondered if the old mule could be of much help. They arrived back at the car and the farmer turned the mule around, attached the rope it carried to the car and to the mule and began yelling; “Go, Joe, go, Fred, go, Jim, go Barney!” The old mule pulled as hard as it could and the car slowly came out of the ditch and back on the road. The driver was amazed and thanked the farmer profusely! Before he drove off he had one question he had to ask the farmer. “Why,’ he inquired, ‘when the mule was pulling the car, did you yell; Go, Joe, go, Fred, go, Jim, go Barney?” “Well,’ replied the old farmer scratching his chin and then petting the mule. ‘Ol’ Barney here doesn’t see too good and I knew if he thought he was pulling by himself he’d never believe he could do it. So, I made him think he was on a team so he’d have the confidence he needed to get the job done.”
Wisdom teaches us that we are never alone. Whatever the situation, it is never so dire that whether we can see it or not, the help we need is there to do what needs to be done.
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 It was a story of two men who were sentenced under California’s outdated and recently reformed Three Strikes Law.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.