I’ll have much more to say about my baby boy on his birthday, as I would much rather focus on his life than his death. But there is no denying that this day one year ago was tragically impossible. I wish I had the ability to explain what it’s like to experience the death of a child. There is just a huge hole, full of emotion but empty of words.
Sometimes others say it much better. In Jon Meachum’s book Destiny and Power, he writes about the life of President George H. W. Bush (Bush 41) who lost his daughter Robin to leukemia in 1953. When she died, Bush wrote a beautiful letter to her. In it he writes about the “need” that is in their house. How they all need Robin’s soft blonde hair to off-set the crew cuts of four boys. How they “need someone to cry when I get mad–not argue.”
The letter ends with these insightful words: “But she is still with us. We need her and yet we have her. We can’t touch her and yet we can feel her. We hope she’ll stay in our house for a long long time. Love, P...
When I was 14, after watching me get thrown out again attempting to steal second base, my dad told me, “You run too long in one place.” This came as a shock to me as from my perspective I was moving fast. But I remember that his comment changed my perspective until I was 17 and ran the 100 yard dash in 10 seconds. Again my perspective changed as I had come to believe I was slow. The good news is that to this day, I still think of myself as fast; my perspective has not changed since that 100 yard dash. It probably never will–in my mind, anyway.
It’s true though that our perspectives can and often do change with time, thought, and other influences.
The most obvious example of that for me, as an inmate at Bastrop FSC, is my perspective of the Federal Prison System. Before I arrived, the prison system was hardly on my radar. My general thoughts were that criminals should be punished and non-violent criminals should be housed in minimum security facilities or camps. That’s about all I tho...
A rural upbringing can create some lasting memories. I remember when I was age 12, I had a very close, face-to-face encounter with a possum while building an elaborate fort in our hay barn. I know now that I scared him, as his response was to open his long slender mouth and hiss at me, showing me his full set of sharp teeth. But at the time, his mouth was the size of an adult alligator. It was a face I’ll never forget as I made a quick retreat from the barn that would embarrass even the French army as I surrendered my fort to the possum army of one.
That memory came back to me recently when I noticed a visitor in the kitchen here at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp–a baby possum. He wasn’t scared or angry; just out for a stroll. Within seconds though, the kitchen erupted into a chaotic chase scene reminiscent of a Keystone Cops movie. Some of the guys tried to catch the now highly elusive baby possum as I watched in amazement.
Finally he was captured by the “Band of Brothers” and taken f...
It may be theoretically possible for a person to willfully change his character. However, if I tried that, chances are my new character would be just as screwed up as the old, as any change I concocted would be based on my own self-centered ego. My intentions might be admirable, but the results just another disaster, as I would still be my own reference point.
So how does meaningful change take place? It may be by doing two things consistently–waiting and listening. Over 2500 years ago in Israel, the prophet Elijah who went into a funk after taking on Jezebel and the prophets of Baal, ultimately pulled his head out by doing exactly those two things as God spoke to him “in a still small voice.” He waited for the flow, and it came to him and carried him. It was the last thing he tried, but when the voice came, he was listening.
I’ve watched the Brazos River become a raging torrent during floods. Its power and sound are imposing and frightening. I’ve also sat for hours and watched its no...
Most of us like to feel we’re in control of our life, and predictability gives us our best shot at feeling some sense of just that. Circumstances, events, and relationships, however, are highly UN-predictable and can make life seem out of control. As a way to respond, many turn to substances and compulsions which offer a hollow and fallacious predictability. If we do this long enough, we will unfortunately need more substances and compulsions because, as Richard Rohr says, “we will always need more of what doesn’t work.”
When we get stuck, sometimes it takes us time to realize where we are then even more time to want to change. But we have to do just that, as change is the only catalyst for growth. Studies show that drug addicts stop maturing emotionally when they start using drugs. They quit growing because they can’t change the one thing they need to change, making all change impossible. They might look 27, but emotionally they’re still 17.
For all our country’s accomplishments in science and technology, I can think of only three real contributions that America has made to organized spirituality, as almost all were reconditioned imports from the Old World.
The first contributor was Mary Baker Eddy who created the Church of Christ, Scientists, about which I unfortunately know nothing. The second was Joseph Smith who created what became the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the “Mormons”. I’m not an expert in their beliefs, but from my experience I can say that if religion is supposed to be transformational, impacting not only what one believes but also practices, the LDS church has figured something out. The third contributor is Bill Wilson who formed and developed the teachings of Alcoholics Anonymous which in its “Big Book” teaches that we are powerless over our addictive behavior and our only hope is a reliance on a “higher power”. I do know something about AA and about addictive/compulsive behavior.
The second inmate subculture at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp is the Entrepreneur. It may be a surprise, but it takes money to live in prison, and the free market is alive here. The Bureau of Prisons provides limited clothes and toiletries, but inmates are otherwise on their own. To get by, they can purchase items from the commissary. The profits for its operation supposedly go to fund inmate services like the email system that sometimes works.
Most inmates exercise regularly, so clothes and shoes for that must be purchased. Toiletries, over-the-counter medications, and shower shoes are necessities and must also be purchased. While optional, many inmates try to supplement Chow Hall food with snacks and full meals after our 3:00 pm dinner. Some creatively cook at night without a cook top, stove or microwave by using a plastic garbage bag, a mop bucket, and a clothes iron (I’m not making this up) with items purchased in the commissary. A hungry inmate who isn’t creative might buy the in...