I recently became part of a prison ministry group in my local community. I am still confused as why I was drawn, or called to, this ministry as it is far outside my comfort zone. I am introverted by nature so I am not a natural person with strangers and my skills as a corporate attorney do not naturally lend themselves to helping those in prison as I am not qualified to provide legal assistance. Nevertheless, I had been dabbling around the edges for a couple of years before I had a very interesting meeting.
A few months ago, I was coming back from a breakfast meeting and saw a person in the lobby of our building. This person, we will call him “John”, asked me what time the bank opened and we struck up a conversation. It was a natural conversation as John is outgoing and charismatic. Eventually we got around to professions and he said that he worked with our local Urban Ministry program who works with persons who are transitioning from prison to the world outside prison. We agreed to meet for coffee in a couple of days.
We met for coffee and had another fascinating conversation. I learned that John had a troubled youth and fell in with the wrong crowd. Not surprisingly, given his intelligence and personality, John rose to leadership of a drug syndicate in Chicago and eventually got caught and did hard time in prison. Although John did not then have formal education beyond high school, he used his prison time to educate himself by reading and studying college and graduate level material. During this time, John also did a lot of soul searching about purpose and the meaning of life. The end result is John is an exceptionally interesting and well-rounded person with more depth than most of the people I am around (despite many of them having advanced degrees). I enjoy John’s company because we can easily switch from talking about Plato to the practical aspects of what it means to be a father raising boys in today’s society.
During his time in prison, John composed some wonderfully rich poems and other writings that he shared with me. Periodically, I will post some of John’s writings to give a flavor of the richness of his writings and the depth of his character.
John wrote the poem below “Elements of Love” in 2002.
“Elements of Love”
Patience-is a gift painted with skill,
With so many beautiful colors,
Softly kissed with a golden seal,
Friendship-is most definitely the cornerstone,
It’s like a work in progress,
Always setting the tone,
Trust-in itself is revered and pristine,
Often times we earn it,
If you don’t believe me, ask “Neen”
Honesty-is said to be our north star,
Shining ever so brightly,
While reaching down on us from afar,
Loyalty-is the benchmark of something great,
Firmly standing in its place,
Proudly showing its character trait,
Fear-is a natural substance of love,
You need not be afraid of it,
Just treat it with kid gloves,
Faith-is what we’re taught to believe,
Proven to be tried and true,
Constantly helping us to achieve,
These very special gifts from God above,
Gliding so heavenly like the dove,
With these wonderful “Elements of Love”
— Composed by “John”, December 2002