Posts Tagged ‘justice’

An Immeasurable distance

January 23, 2013

I must admit that this came forth very painfully. I’m supposed to be writing for my book on prison ministry, but this came out instead.

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An Immeasurable Distance

A young black face
Male
In profile
Through the narrow cell window
Just his profile
He was leaning
His back against the wall
Standing
Less than two feet away
But the door
The cell door
The solid steel cell door
Imposed an immeasurable distance
Between us
A gulf socioeconomic, judicial, racial
A span of years, experiences, hopes, dreams
Fears
Separated us
 
He spoke softly
“It’s hard,” he said
“I know,” was my only reply
Tears
Flowed instantly
Glistening on his dark skin
Catching the light from the small window
Twelve feet away
I also wept … inside
Silently, invisibly
Carrying on my own tears
Hundreds of young men
Hidden behind those doors
For the past twelve years
I’ve stood at those doors
 
This young man facing life
Without parole
Wept
Now 25 years old
He was eighteen
The day I first knocked on his door

 © 2013 Thomas W. Cummins

I continue to hope

July 1, 2012

Fear, hatred, and bigotry. A palpable presence in our civil and political discourse. The coded language, positions taken, and policies subverted abound. Nevertheless, come Wednesday I will put up our flag and continue to hope.

A withering stigma

November 14, 2011

Comparisons of the sex abuse scandal at Penn State to those within the Catholic church are being made easily and without hesitation.

An examination of how things have been handled, however, yields little in common.  The cover-ups and disregard for the consequences of such indifference by the Vatican and involved dioceses are inexcusable. Such inactions and obliviousness have, in my opinion,  rendered the hierarchy  voiceless for some time to come on nearly any pronouncement or directive they bring forward,  especially any regarding pelvic issues – their ever-present, uninformed fixation.

Penn State’s Board of Trustees cleaned house. Perhaps if a few red hats or mitres were sent home to live with relatives … years ago … things could have been different, fewer young children would have been irreparably harmed, our faithful and effective priests would not be living and ministering under a withering stigma.

A senseless activity

February 13, 2011

During the early hours of Wednesday, February 9, 2011, just after mid-night, Martin Link was executed by the State of Missouri. Why? No reason other than he committed one of the few murders which result in a death sentence in Missouri – about 1 percent.

An individual taking revenge on a person who murdered a loved one is an illegal activity. The state taking revenge on that murderer is a senseless activity, completely absent any meaning. Killing someone who is defenseless and poses no threat to society defies explanation.

There are more than 40 men on death row in Missouri. (I invite you to name two.) These are men the state can’t wait to execute. But to what end? Who knows their names or what crime they are guilty of committing?

Mr. Link’s crime needed to be spelled out in several newspaper articles and TV reports over the weeks prior to his execution.  If he was such a menace to the life and welfare of any of our fellow citizens, you’d think his presence among us would have been top of mind everyday for the past 20 years.

To be sure, his crime was most distasteful, violent, and devoid of any public sympathy. I’ll let the reader Google his name for the details. During my 2-1/2 years of visiting him on a regular basis, I was unaware of his crime. Seldom am I aware of the crimes of any of the men I minister to in solitary confinement.

I intentionally choose to not research offenders’ crimes. No matter how hard I try, it is difficult to avoid being judgmental. Meeting them where they are and as they are is what I’m called to do as a volunteer chaplain in two of Missouri’s maximum security prisons.

Getting to know Marty Link was a privilege for me, and to have him as a companion on a small segment of my faith journey. My comments at his prayer service prior to his burial on Friday, February 11 are linked here.

Let us all pray for wisdom and maturity among our elected officials so that an end to capital punishment can be achieved in our states and nation. We are becoming more and more alone in the world in our inability to forgive and open the door to redemption. Denying access to repentance and a life of meaning, even in prison, doesn’t reflect what this country stands for.

A 21st Century Prophecy

February 8, 2011

(This morning I spent time with an offender who is in a holding cell awaiting execution just after midnight tonight. As I sit here this evening, I’m reminded of what I was doing nearly 10 years ago at the end of my first year as a volunteer chaplain at a maximum security prison.)

During the fall of 2001, two events converged: I was taking a course called “The Prophets,” and I was asked by an offender to be a pastoral witness at his execution.

So, I chose the topic of capital punishment and reflected upon what a modern-day prophet might have to say on the topic.

In my paper I included A 21st Century Prophecy which I wrote in the morning before I drove down to the prison on the eve of his execution.

“It’s a deal!”

February 1, 2011

First the freezing rain, then the freezing drizzle, and soon the snow accompanied by high winds will arrive. Anywhere from 7 to 20 inches are expected, a major storm for this part of the country.

My first trek to the driveway was to push around a few inches of ice crystals. The consistency was that of sugar. Better to keep up with it from time to time rather than wait for the storm to pass.

When I came in for a break and rest, I set the oven timer for two hours, an appropriate recovery interval before I would return for more shoveling.

A moment later there was a knock on the front door. “Would you like me to keep your driveway clean throughout the storm?” There, with smiling face, stood our neighbor’s son.

“What compensation are you looking for?” I asked.

“I will return three times for a total of 25 dollars.”

“It’s a deal!”

His family has, perhaps, the only snow blower in the immediate neighborhood. This is contrasted with the area we grew up in, Minnesota, where one is more than likely to be the only one without a snow blower in any given neighborhood.

The work is being supervised by is father, and I envision a budding business being set up for several winters coming.

But I still think I’ll purchase a snow blower. We’ll see.


In the meantime, I imagine there is an offender looking at the snow through his narrow window. He can’t see far, just as far as the adjacent wing in his housing unit.

I wonder what he is thinking as the snow swirls among the buildings. This coming weekend could be his last as he approaches his execution date on February 9.

And for the rest of us, a snow storm is coming.