There’s a guy in my cell-block who has a teenage daughter, he’s crazy about her…he has a twenty-four year sentence for narcotics. Whenever we’re together we talk about our children… and that’s pretty much, all, we talk about. I will add that he’s a good person, just got himself addicted and then started selling dope to pay for his habit, one thing led to another, and, wham! a twenty-four year sentence, in Federal Prison. No, he didn’t kill anyone. Nope he wasn’t holding a gun on folks, making them take dope, he was just a dealer, a drug addicted, dealer – 24 years! Well, that, and he wouldn’t work for the Feds as an informant – 24 years!

Like I said, he’s a good guy who loves his kid, reads his Bible and is genuinely trying to be a better person. This man, whom I’ll leave nameless, has not had an easy life. First, he was adopted as a baby by a black Baptist Minister, he is white, he does not know who his birth parents are, the only family he knows is the Minister and his family. I actually met his father, the Minister, once in the visiting room when they were seated next to my own family. The man I met is a very nice, poor, humble, pastor of a small church, the kind that serves the Lord, not for fame or money, but because he’s been called to do so – like I said, I met him once and found him to be humble and sincere, the kind of guy who’d adopt someone else’s kid. Anyway, my friend grew up in a good family, but a bad neighborhood and has struggled with his identity, his relationship with God and the knowledge that his mother “Threw him away”, his words. Like I said, he’s a nice guy, but he started the race of life in last place…that, and the vehicle he was given to use, is defective.

I have come to realize that, like me, the subject he can relate most clearly to is his child. So whenever he needs to talk, I have realized that the best way to get his attention is to steer our conversation to the one thing we have in common, our daughters. Whenever I’m trying to give him meaning to something, a reason to do the right thing, to keep moving forward, to stay off drugs, and he has, I know that I can use his fifteen year old daughter as a focal point. No matter how hard he’s struggling I always have her, HE always has her. When an acquaintance from his hometown showed up and quickly became one of the biggest dope dealers on the yard, I said, ” You worked for him on the streets. Look what it got you! Remember, selling dope cost you precious time with your daughter. Do the right thing for her!” When his wife moved some new guy into their house, I said, ” You’re daughter is all that matters, and she’ll never leave you!” When they put an unrepentant junkie in the cell with him, I told him, ” Whenever you’re tempted, remember your daughter. Do the right thing for her. She needs you to come home”. For several years now, this has been going on between us…a little while back, he came into my cell, and in a voice that would tear your heart out said, “She’s cutting herself.”

Yeah. He didn’t need to tell me who, I knew who he was talking about. His daughter, is taking a razorblade, and cutting herself with it. I felt as though someone had kicked me in the chest…I…God forgive me, I didn’t know what to say. I had no words of encouragement…I just hugged him…hell. I can’t even finish this entry.

24 years.

Ruined life.

Damaged daughter.

Crazy how some folks, even smart ones like me, can’t see the consequences of their actions until it’s too late. If you are sure of nothing else, you can be assured that the greatest punishment, is the punishment a man inflicts upon himself. Yeah, reality sure has a way of getting our attention, and I thank God – yes, I thank God for saving me from all the sins I’d have otherwise committed as a free man. This terrible thing that has happened to my friend and his daughter, makes me realize just how blessed I am.

Peace be with you, all.

Three Rivers, 10-27-17