I had spent more than 1,500 days in prison when, for the first time, the intercom instructed me to report to the superintendent’s office. I was down to my last eight hours, nervously awaiting my 12:01 a.m. release.
It wasn't until I arrived that I recalled I had agreed to this meeting. Weeks before I had been asked by a friend of a friend on behalf of a captain in a nearby police force. His work centered on children of inmates. When his sister asked me if they could interview me I had no choice. I had agreed to do whatever I could to help, even it meant all the things I avoided while in prison, like talking to cops or even just putting myself out in the public eye. I reluctantly agreed.
But now, with just a few hours left, I wanted to be anywhere else.
Yet, I had promised. I intended to start my freedom right, by keeping my word and focusing on service, even uncomfortable service. I went. They interviewed me for over an hour. I spoke about things I was ready to put behind me, things like my crimes, the impact it had on my family and the hardship my choices brought to my kids was not stuff I wanted to think about, much less on the day of my release. But soon I realized it was a gift from God, the perfect thing to be mindful of as I re-entered the world.
Since that day two things have been a staple in what I do: 1) stay sober, going on close to six years, and 2) serve somebody. In rehab they stressed the idea of simply doing the right thing. And when you've done that, do the next right thing. And so on. If you keep doing that, you won't go back to the booze or the corruption or the moral decay or the impaired jugement that burnt your life to ash in the first place. Alcoholics Anonymous has 12 steps. The 12th and final step is a reoccuring one that says, " Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs."
Like millions of others, I practice the principle of service to honor the spiritual awakening that occurred and gave me the grace to recover.
These are the causes I support:
Solutions Oriented Prison Reform
Read Mike Green's article in the Huffington Post:
Criminal U: America's Most Successful Institution Educating the Poor
Visit CriminalU.co to see the transformation of the human spirit in prisons, in communities, in families and even on death row.
Check out our pilot project to train inmates to launch their own business with cutting edge 21-st century solutions:
Local Community Building & Minority Empowerment
Inclusive competitiveness is a term used to describe the national effort to connect disaffected communites to the economic uplift that has already drastically improved the lifes of some, while leaving far more behind in the aftermath of the Great Recession. Learn more:
ScaleUp Partners: ScaleUp Partners helps local economies scale up economic competitiveness through inclusion.
Above all we try to remain intensely local. In the past my mistakes hurt those closest to me, including the communities I loved. So much of what we do now is close. Person-to-person, block-by-block, one small act after another to shed a little grace in the world. Thanks to local partners we've been able to hand out dozens of backpacks of supplies to those in need throughout the winter. We do this with no strings attached, no publicity, no effort to put a bow on the absolute desperation of those living on the margins. It's just our simple effort to be good neighbors. For those interested in helping out, visit our contact page and drop us a line.
I'll likely spent a good deal of the rest of my life making amends to those I've hurt in the past. It will take a long time and an ongoing conscious effort to circle back and close old wounds, making restitution where I can and doing what small things I can do, knowing for some such efforts are way too little, way too late. But even as that process continues the single best thing I can do to make amends is never again be part of the problem. By doing what service I can, I do the right thing, and so on. In that way, I know I stop whatever cycle of hurt and destruction I contributed to in the past.
Everything represented on these pages somewhat filters back to this simple 12th step daily act.
And for those interested, this is that final interview I gave my last night in prison. Our oldest daughter Amanda agreed also to be interviewed and she has since become a fierce advocate for children of incarcerated adults.