Earlier I shared a little bit about Don, an Ex-con I had lunch with the other day. Here’s the second part of his story…
Joy was a beautiful hispanic girl that Don still talks about with love in his voice. Unfortunately, however, she struggled with drugs, and their life together was riddled with bad decisions. Don once again was caught and sentenced for possession, and he was blown away by the fact that Joy stayed by his side through prison. He said it hurt him deeply that she could come visit, but they could never show affection to each other. And as he got closer to release, once again his mind was made up not to stay clean for good.
As soon as he was released, however, he started hanging out with the wrong people. At this point in the story, I stopped him again.
“Don, you’ve mentioned several times that you kept ‘running into the wrong people’ I never run into these people, and I wouldn’t even know where to find them. How does that keep happening?”
“It was a choice. I knew where they were, and I would go to those places. They were my friends, and that’s where Joy spent her time. I wanted to be with her and with the people that I felt comfortable with.”
I didn’t say anything at the time, but his statement “it was a choice” rocked my world. We often quote the “as iron sharpens iron” verse talking about how we need to spend time with good people and stay away from the bad people, but I’ve never heard someone admit that hanging out with bad people was a choice. Usually people just chalk it off as ‘oh I got involved with the wrong crowd’ as if it’s a passive thing where they didn’t have much of a choice. Don was admitting that he chose to spend time at these places and with these people even though he knew it wasn’t good for him. I think some of us could learn from this when we consider who influences us. (I’m not just talking friends and family but also movies, music, etc…) I think this could also be a wake-up call that you don’t just stop hanging out with the wrong people by being passive about it, you have to make a choice when it comes to who gets your time and attention.
Although Don had not made a bad decision yet, he knew the temptation was getting the best of him so he called a pastor friend that he had met in prison. This pastor left his home in the middle of the night, picked up Don, and brought him to his house. Don describes their house as a huge place with a really nice basement. It had plush couches, a big screen TV, and the pastor said it was his for as long as he needed it. Don didn’t even have to pay rent, and you could tell that he was still so thankful for this experience!
For several months, he did well. But Joy was still important to him, and he didn’t want to lose her. He decided that maybe the setting was the problem so they moved into a really nice house.
“It worked for a while,” Don said, “but it didn’t last. Soon joy was right back into drugs, and I was right there with her. I remember the day we got kicked out of the house, it was bitter cold and we were sitting on the porch high on something when they showed up. We had nowhere to go, and I remember shivering the entire day.”
A couple of months later, Don ended up in prison again isolated from everyone he loved. It was this final time in prison that Don said, “…killed my mom. She was struggling with cancer, and had actually been doing really well for over 10 months. But within 6 months of me going to jail — she gave up. I still blame myself for that.”
It was during this last prison sentence that Don met Prison Fellowship Ministries. He was a good candidate for it because he needed the two things that PFM offers the most — hope and accountability. Through mentoring prisoners, PFM not only sees 100’s of people fall in love with Jesus but also stay out of prison for the rest of their lives.
Prison Fellowship finally gave Don the push he needed to get his life straight. They finally helped him “grow up after over 50 years.” He doesn’t give them all of the credit, in fact, one of the main things that changed his life was a dream.
“My mom showed up while I was sleeping. I tell people this story all of the time, and they look like me as if I’m crazy but it really happened. She showed up and said ‘it’s okay Don. I’m in a better place, it’s not your fault. I don’t blame you.’ She was beautiful, Daniel, and radiant. I don’t know if God allowed her to come back or what happened, but I finally felt free of that guilt.”
As we were sitting around the table finishing up our lunch, Don nearly teared up as he shared about his mom. The one lady in his life that had always believed in the best of him, and that he could make it and be something special.
Part 3 Tomorrow
Does your mom believe in you? Take a moment to brag on your mom, you may comment below…