Wednesday 11 February 2009

On death penalty, torture and meeting Jesus

Doug Tjapkes speaks at Cities for Life rally in Toronto, On.

(Nov. 2008)

It must be something in the air...
After I wrote this there is Evangelicals for Social Action bringing out a magazine proclaiming I was in prison and you visited Me (it is on the pdf of the complete issue, which unfortunately I cannot place here). And then today there is my friend Doug Tjapkes from Muskegon, MI, under the same title. A good opportunity to ask some attention for his site:

I had driven about 400 miles in one day…200 to the prison, 200 back home.

I was still sorting through my emotions when I said to Marcia: “I’m not sure how to say this, but I think that I’m the privileged one to visit a prisoner.”

She quickly responded. “When I worked for hospice, and sat with the family of a loved one at the actual time of death, I felt that I was standing on holy ground! There’s no doubt in my mind that that’s where you were.”

I thought of the lyrics of that old gospel song: We are standing on holy ground, for I know that there are angels all around…

Kevin is 16 years old, and has already served a year in a prison system where he doesn’t belong. He’s been diagnosed with Bipolar disorder. For a mentally challenged juvenile in an adult world, it has been anything but easy, as proven by the ugly scars on his arm. Failure to get proper medication, long hours in isolation, scorn and ridicule. His excellent condition and demeanor today are testament to his loving mother’s 24/7 vigil, an around-the-clock fight for the rights of her son!

When he entered the room my first thought was: ‘This could be one of my grandkids!” Then came the uneasy second thought: “Can two people with an age difference of over 50 years connect?”

“Are you hungry?” One of my first questions. I had brought my limit of quarters for the vending machines. “I’m always hungry!” A killer smile! Why was his answer no surprise?

We started out with a breakfast sandwich and a Pepsi. We switched to sweets: M&Ms and a Snickers bar. The desserts for his meal were an apple fritter AND a piece of apple pie! He was right: a voracious appetite! I grinned as he wolfed down the food. He was so polite. “Please.” “Thank you!”

We talked of prison facilities (the juvenile facility has been closed); we talked of guard abuse of mentally ill prisoners (one prisoner’s eye was swollen shut and bones were broken because guards beat him while he was strapped down); we talked of prisoner guard behavior (some of them seem to enjoy making fun of mentally ill prisoners, imitating them or laughing at them); we talked about Kevin (I want to make a difference; I was placed here for a reason; I want to write a book; I want to speak at public meetings; I want to work in YOUR business when I get out!). His slightly herky-jerky speech pattern was the only indication that this young man has any problem. We had a delightful conversation!

I had to leave. There was a long drive ahead.

We shook hands. I allowed that I needed a hug, also. “My mom gives me a hug when she leaves!”

I did well...not until I reached the car did the tears flow.

Did I do the right things, God? Did I say the right words?

We are standing on holy ground for I know that there are angels all around.

Doug Tjapkes