Here is a switch. A while back I got a letter from a young man incarcerated in a California prison, saying he is praying for me and my wife every day. Usually, it’s the other way around. Over the past several years, I have received a great number of letters from inmates in various prisons all across the nation. Unfortunately, most contain the same self-serving words from misguided thinking that landed them in prison in the first place. However, the letter I just referred to was different. This young man gave me permission to use his name but I won’t because it may incriminate some people who had nothing to do with his being there.
This man — I will call him Matt — is in the Wasco State Prison located in Wasco, California, but he has an aunt who reads my column in the Sturgis Journal, published in Sturgis, Mich. She clips it out every week and sends it to him. For any person, young or old, who is traveling down the wrong road, what he has to say may make a real difference. Rather than just generalizing, I want to share some of his own words that are direct from the horse’s mouth.
He says, “I am incarcerated after a long history of drug addiction and a vast amount of stupid decisions. I read in a recent column about your project on literacy. I think you are doing great things because I see what you are talking about first hand on a daily basis.
“I have recently started writing a memoir about trying to get sober and putting my life back together, piece by piece, in a maximum security prison. It’s one thing to get sober and get help when you have a maximum amount of resources and support out on the streets, but it is a completely different story doing it on your own in a 70-square-foot condo. I have written several short essays that I am trying to get published in order to help kids realize how serious drug addiction is, even just marijuana. I hope one day to be able to inspire kids to stay away from drugs and get their educations.
“Your columns are a non-stop source of motivation and reassurance that there are still people out there who believe people can change. I am enclosing a bit of my writing that my aunt types up for me (God bless her) and I was wondering if you could give me your honest opinion.”
After reading his article titled, “To the teenager who knows it all,” I decided to send him a personally signed copy of the first edition of “Learning, Earning & Giving Back.” This book has 49 of my columns selected by a panel of journalists and they contain a lot of life-changing principles. As a result of the book, Matt wrote me another three-and-a-half-page letter.
He says, “It took me a week to finish your book because almost every chapter made me stop and write a letter to someone in my family who was either struggling with that topic or could use a little bit of extra encouragement in their life.” He went on to say that he likes my style of writing because, as a Christian, you do not mention God every other word and use Him as a crutch. “The way you foreshadow your beliefs on all of the every day examples and sayings is very clear and unique. It’s almost like the reader is constantly learning Christian beliefs and values without even knowing it.”
I can only say, “To God Be the Glory,” and it made me very humble to read what he had to say. It very much sounds like Matt is on the right road in his 70-square-foot condo. Thanks to an aunt who loves him and shares my columns, I pray that all of us, mostly his family, can help him stay on the right road.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a public speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034. To begin a bookcase literacy project visit www.bookcaseforeverychild.com. You won’t go wrong helping a needy child.)