Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Divine Week

True stories straight from prison-

Merriam Webster’s College Dictionary defines “divine” two ways:  “of, or proceeding from God;” and “to discover by intuition or insight.”  This past week both those definitions came to mind as I watched and lived through another week of prison.
It all started typically enough.  I was at a visit last Saturday when a young guy from the college building asked to introduce me to his folks.  He goes by the name “Divine”.  He is an extremely lean, muscular black man, just 23, soft spoken and very polite.  He always calls me sir as in “sir, would you have time to read my essay?”  I like him (but, my friends in here will tell you I like most everyone).
Divine is a very bright kid and he writes beautifully.  He’s one of the young guys I really enjoy helping.  So, we completed count in the “VI” room and Divine said “sir, I’d like to introduce you to my folks.”  I’ve had that happen a couple of dozen times in my stay here.  That, or guys I work with in school will introduce themselves to my folks or friends at visit.  We walk over and there is this older, well-dressed black couple sitting at a small table (dad in a suit; mom in a dress; late 60’s).  Divine introduced me to them and said “this is the man who’s taught me to write.”  His mother and father hop up and shake my hand.  His mom tells me they’ve known their son was blessed when he got here.  A devoutly religious couple, she added “we prayed he’d meet someone who would befriend him and urge him to be his best.  He’s told us how you work with the young men.  Thank you.”

I was speechless.  All that afternoon I thought here I am a felon, an inmate and somehow I made a difference in this kid’s life.  All the prayers I’d uttered about giving me a chance and I realized I was, in fact, living my chance.  I made a difference in a kid’s life and his parents now have hope.  It was, a humbling insightful moment.
Two days later another A+ certification test was held.  Seven of nine students passed.  The two who didn’t were mere points from passing.  “Mouse”, one of the guys I spend hours with each week honing his English skills, came back from class Tuesday night with an “A” on his paper he’d written about Langston Hughes.  We spent two afternoons reading and re-reading poems and then, suddenly it clicked.  Like a light switch turning on Mouse’s face, he lit up as he got what Hughes was saying.

And then, Thursday the GED was given.  I had two guys sit for the test and those two guys passed.  I’ve been thinking a good deal about unanswered prayers.  We pray about something, it doesn’t occur immediately and we assume God’s not listening.  We forget all the times in our past when our kids were sick, or we’d lost a job, or we were on the brink of divorce.  Somehow God always answered, always saw us through the difficulties we faced.
I have said “but” a great number of times these past three years.  I realized there’s no “but” in “trust in the Lord with all your heart”.  The strange thing is I think I’ve known that all along.  Faith is all about the future.  You believe because your past proves prayers are answered.  A lot of good news came out for the college guys this week and for the GED students.  It reminded me that in any situation good can come.  Remembering that was divine.

[The Author] I was an attorney suspended from law practice in Tennessee for misappropriation of client’s funds; I rebuilt my life by moving to Virginia. Disclosing my law license problems, I was hired as a claims adjuster and within 1 year promoted to in-house claims attorney by a large Virginia insurer. Four years after being hired, I began embezzling money to lavish gifts on family and friends. From 1996 through the middle of 2008, I traveled as a high roller (making first-class trips to both the Mirage in Las Vegas and the Borgata in Atlantic City); ate in the finest restaurants and had front row seats at shows with family & friends. However, this world came crashing down in August 2008, when I was confronted by the company president. Immediately confessing, I was arrested, convicted for embezzling over $2 million and indicted on six counts. I was diagnosed with manic impulse control disorder (a form of bi-polar disorder). I pled guilty and made significant attempts to cooperate with authorities and protect my family. However, the wife I loved divorced me; my two sons withdrew from me; friends abandoned me. I was sentenced to 30 years in prison (with only 15 suspended).

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