When was the last time you had tears in your eyes and why? For me it was March 2014 in a New York hospice. I lifted my sister Elizabeth’s eye lids to say good bye. I told her I loved her and that I hoped I had been a good brother. Then reluctantly I had to leave my only sibling and return to Minnesota. To this day I miss her edgy brilliance, quick humor and gentleness.
I have also witnessed tears of joy this week. My wife Patty has had a stunning series of heartening victories, the kind that puts wind in your sails, instills hope in your heart and sets sunlight in your future. First, Patty received a letter from her probation officer advising that she was no longer on Federal Supervised Release and her civil liberties were returned. This is a big deal for those who have behind the wire. Then a state background check cleared Patty for work as a full-time licensed therapist. She will be starting a new job this Monday. On top of that, an orientation day this past Friday at her new place of work was welcoming, affirming and wonderful. When she returned home; I witnessed tears of joy from my wife, who after years of struggle, was walking around in our home saying over and over, “this was the best day ever” and thanking God. Watching her and seeing her tears of joy made the past seven years of our judicial journey all worth it.
At the risk of being a Donny Downer; I clearly recall the vindictive victim impact statement at Patty’s sentencing hearing in Federal Court five years ago. It was a piece of literature bordering on yellow journalism warning anybody who would listen, not to be fooled by her tears. It’s so easy to kick a person when they are down. History will reflect poorly on this document and the anonymous author who piled on with twelve pages of venom.
If you want real writing, check out the May 24th 2014 New York Times editorial titled “End Mass Incarceration Now.”
No time? OK, here’s the bottom line, buckle up: “All of this has come at an astounding economic cost, as tallied by a report from the Brookings Institution’s Hamilton Project — $80 billion a year in direct corrections expenses alone, and more than a quarter-trillion dollars when factoring in police, judicial and legal services.” How sad is that for America and what have we become as a nation? Serious grounded leadership is desperately needed to address our Federal financial deficit, the broken Veterans Administration, excessive NSA surveillance, immigration issues and oh yes, prison reform.
The human toll exacted by our broken corrections system is beyond my comprehension and is staggering. Dollars can’t define broken families, broken dreams or heartache. What is really tragic is that most Americans could care less. They are so self absorbed in Snap Chat, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, selfies or competitive cooking shows with squabbling cooks holding sharp utensils. I am convinced the only time mainstream America has an interest in corrections is when they watch Lock Up Extended Stay or have family behind razor wire.
As taxpayers, if they knew the real cost of what they were paying for each inmate’s incarceration they would be outraged. An uninformed electorate is a dangerous thing and easily manipulated, goodbye to watching Cup Cake Wars.
Maybe this nation is behind bars. So how as a country do we step up to the plate, find opportunities to improve and start fixing things once and for all? I would submit, spend less time with your tablet and cut down on TV, texting and the iPhone. Walk more, drive less, care more, not less, relate face to face with people more and go to church more, not less. Jesus doesn’t care less, start a relationship, take a risk, see how it goes; some day it just may bring tears to your eyes.
Just for the record, this blog is not a political document. There are many opportunities to improve our nation, our lives and the lives of others. You can’t fix what you simply ignore. When my wife was doing Federal time 900 miles away; I found going to church was a source of calm. It was a quiet refuge with people who seemed to have hope, not heartache in their life. I was angry, stressed, weary and edgy, but I always left feeling a little better. Jesus cared; I just didn’t get it.
My wife is now home full of joy and Jesus and my sister has passed away. Both scenarios are cause for tears in this writer’s eyes. In hindsight; I was lost and running for many years. Too much pain I guess. Now that I have quit running, life is better. Perhaps I was behind bars and just never knew it. How about you?