I know my story of having a relative in prison, being incarcerated so long that life outside of prison is strange, is not all that uncommon. How he can’t seem to live his life without dealing or using… How he can’t seem to live without trying to find ways to buck the system…
As I always do with people, I look at their upbringing and try to understand why they behave the way they do. More often than not there is a reason why they are workaholics, alcoholics and womanizers. There are reasons why they are an abrasive or cold woman toward men, insecure or voiceless. There are reasons for the panic attacks, voices and addictions. My distant relative is no exception.
*Henry was such an adorable little boy. He was a bit of a brat, as most younger boys are, but he was fun. He was energetic and craved attention. Yet, there was a sad side to his story and it started when he was very young.
Henry’s parents split up when he was very young, maybe 3 or so. Drugs were likely around him as a child. I remember him always rubbing his nose, a habit he likely had seen someone close to him do. In an attempt to lead a better life, albeit a bit late, one of his parents moved and took Henry with to a small town in the midwest.
Not long after, Henry started getting into trouble. He kept having minor offenses, usually revolving around possession of marijuana. Before the age of 20, Henry was in prison for possession/dealing of a variety of drugs including opiates. A year later he was in prison for the same thing. Another year later, again the same thing. The last time tack on burglary, theft and the possession/dealing of narcotics. He’s been on work releases and then violated parole. Right now he is not even up for his parole for another couple of years and by the looks of his latest mug shot, I think it would be best if they kept him locked up.
Yet, why did this have to happen? Why did this fun loving kid have to be bad product of his parents’ behavior and then not be able to turn it around?
I wish I had all of the answers but there are a few things that I can for certain speak about.
- Henry’s dad didn’t know how to be a dad. Because Henry’s grandfather was a workaholic he wasn’t a very good role model to Henry’s dad. Henry’s dad just did whatever it was he wanted to do and likely got in a lot of trouble himself. He was not likely shown love or pride from his own father so he did not know how to show it, or maybe even feel it, for Henry.
- Addictions run in the family. Henry’s grandfather was likely an alcoholic and his great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather all died from the effects of alcoholism. If you don’t have addictions in your family, thank the Lord above. Obviously from this story, addictions are not easy to break and this makes for a strong case of addictions being a genetic problem.
- A broken home. I’m not just talking about parents who get divorced. In fact, I’m not talking about that at all. I’m talking about a home that was outright broken. If you take someone, or two people, in the family who curse and yell and filled with rage and you throw some drugs in the mix, there is going to be a “product” of this. Henry is that product. Henry, once an impressionable and adorable child, is the product of his parents’ terrible behavior.
- Henry likely felt unwanted. I know for a fact that Henry was often dumped at friends and relatives to take care of him because his parents were too “busy” (high, drunk, angry, partying, whatever) for him. In fact, I took care of him a couple of times myself. Yes, this falls back to Henry’s dad not knowing how to be a Daddy but also Henry’s mom not knowing how to be a Mommy. Let’s take it a step further, Henry’s parents didn’t know how to grow up themselves. They were the last of the hippy era and just wanted to live a free life. I think Henry was an unplanned, and even unwanted, surprise.
- Henry’s home didn’t have God. Henry’s parents were not religious. I’m not suggesting that religion answers anything, but God sure does. Some families do their best to make sure God is guiding them and do all the right things and still their children take the wrong paths. Other families don’t do anything of the sort and their children turn out fine. Yet, is it not our calling to lead our children to Christ? Society does not and will not ensure how to love one another or be a genuine person, only God does.
It is easy to sit on the sidelines of people’s lives and make some assumptions about why they are the way the are. It is easy to sit back, without getting your hands dirty or your heart heavy, and analyze situations without impacting them. It is easy to say “Thank God that’s not me or my family” and not bat an eyelash. However, we are called to do a few things for
- Pray. I can’t remember the last time I prayed for Henry or his dad. I don’t know them very well. To be honest, as much as I feel sorry for Henry I do not want to get involved with the situation. His heart is in such a bad place that I don’t trust him. At the very least, however, we need to pray for Henry and people such as these. There are families all over that have a Henry. In fact, I know of another guy, a middle aged guy, who had a picture perfect life until he let his alcohol addiction take over. Currently the formerly church-going involved family man is homeless on the streets, estranged from his wife and children. Many, many families have a Henry and often times the only thing we can do is pray.
- Don’t judge. Every person has sins. My sins are different than your sins are different than Henry’s sins. One sin is not worse or better than the other. We are ALL fallen children and Jesus’s blood covers all of our sins. The people who make me scratch my head the most are the folks who rank and file and consider their life, situation or their upbringing so much better than someone else’s. Again, I reflect on Ibrahim Ferrer and how he felt ABUNDANTLY blessed in his tiny apartment in dirty, run-down Cuba. Is my life better than Ibrahim’s was? I’m not certain. I may have had an easier time at things but I tell you what, Ibrahim had a very grateful heart… more grateful than people I’ve met. If we could all be like Ibrahim…
- Give back. I feel badly but I in no way shape or form ever intend to reach out to Henry. I feel that in doing so I would be putting my family in danger. Yet, this strong stance makes me feel badly, hypocritical even. We are called to visit the imprisoned along with the sick. So, the only thing I can think to do is ensure I’m doing what I can to give back to folks who need it and it’s between me and God the ways in which I do this but I’m telling YOU that opportunities are endless in this department. There are people in restaurants everywhere who would appreciate someone anonymously paying. There are homeless people on your way to work who would not turn down a breakfast sandwich. There are organizations that once helped you or move your heart in some way that could really benefit from your money or donations. No, I am not in a position to help Henry directly but I can donate to organizations that help reintegrate/rehabilitate people like Henry back into society successfully (just an FYI, among all the things the Salvation Army does, it includes sheltering ex-convicts and rehabilitating them).
So pray with me and “bear each other’s burdens and bind each other’s wounds.” Let us shine our light so brightly that people like Henry can come to know Jesus and a path that will ensure everlasting happiness.