Thursday, June 28, 2012
In the Internet age, with so many people communicating through Facebook and e-mail, traditional letter writing seems to be facing extinction. This is a dreadful problem for people who don’t have access to the Internet, like prisoners.
Most people can’t be bothered to write letters anymore. Call me old-fashioned, but I try to keep hope alive by writing to the diminishing handful of people who still care about me, to encourage them, and, in turn, to be encouraged.
One dear Christian friend in South Dakota has been corresponding with me since we met over 24 years ago, and his letters always brighten my day. His example inspires me to be a better person, through his lifetime dedication to lifting up and helping others, but the twist to the story is his insistence that he is inspired by my example, of enduring the deprivation and hardship of prison, and maintaining my faith in God. Each of us gains strength from the other.
Recently someone said that they don’t know how I can take it, the stresses of subjugation, the incessant shakedowns and harsh treatment imprisonment entails, and particularly the targeting by the corrupt Tampa prosecutor with the personal vendetta against me. The repeated strident false accusations that he fears me, therefore I should never be released, and most recently, his enlisting the help of the DOC in recording my phone calls (in a fruitless hope that I would be caught saying something against him), delivery refusal and censorship of both my incoming and outgoing mail, including the return of books sent from the publisher, and most damaging, denying me access to the legal research sources in the law library, hindering my ability to defend my case in court, all of which would test the patience of Job.
I want to tell you how I do it. I read the Bible, and draw strength from the words and deeds of those who endured and overcame far greater hardships than my meager imprisonment.
Some scoffers ridicule so-called “chain-gang religion” as a facile attempt by desperate people to latch onto something that will get them out of prison. I say let them latch onto the Bible, read it every day — if it changes someone’s life, their evil ways. I pray that corrupt prosecutor will read it and be changed, too.
When Jack Murphy and I were putting together the first “Sonshine Adventure” in September, 1983, at Zephyrhills C. I., we had six weeks to organize a three-day spiritual weekend involving scores of outside church members and Christian volunteers bringing their programs into the prison, something that had never been done. We had several dozen prisoners signed up to help with all the work. One of the things we did was to have short sessions of daily training in being “disciples” and servants. We encouraged the men to spend private time each day reading the Bible, particularly the Psalms and Proverbs.
This morning I started over with the first chapter of Psalm 1: verses 1-4, and the words struck me as being so on-target to my present situation, that I want to share them:
“How blessed is the man who does not
Walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He will be like a tree firmly planted
by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
But they are like chaff which
The wind drives away.”
There is much that I could say about these verses, but for the moment let it suffice that I feel strongly that the truth continues thousands of years after the words were written, and lives as an example to many people besides me.
Before I came to prison, I measured success the same as most people do, seeking the American Dream of financial rewards, money, a nice house, car, boat, family, status in the community, but because I “walked in the counsel of the wicked” and “stood in the path of sinners,” I lost virtually everything that I held dear, and very nearly lost my life. When threatened with electrocution, one’s thoughts get focused on what is truly important in life.
Somehow I survived, against all odds, and in some people’s eyes I have thrived in an evil place. Other people resent the fact that I’m still breathing and won’t conveniently die, thus effectively shutting me up. But I truly believe that the Lord has a plan for my life, and I will continue to do my best to fulfill His plan. If that means I must endure false personal attacks by evil people, so be it. My measure of success has changed over time, as I have changed, and I am a better man because of it. I was denied the American Dream, but I will make the best of what I have, day by day.
Perhaps the prison mail room will decide to let some of my correspondence come through today, and I will get a letter from a friend. I will delight in small blessings, and pray that you will, too.
God bless you.
Posted by Charles P. Norman at 11:07 PM