loose ends.

8 Oct

Around the time I gave up Facebook, things got a little crazy.  That’s not what this is about.  What this is about is typing up the loose ends.  There are a few subjects that I wrote about the week of and then never followed up on.  So, without further adieu…

Quitting Facebook: I thought that quitting Facebook would be difficult.  Not because I’m hooked on technology, but because I’m all about people and Facebook is a way of keeping up with said people.  I’m probably the only person that actually looks at all of the pictures from your trip to Spain last month.  I want to know what’s going on in your life and unlike the majority of Facebook-ers who are passively perusing your Facebook pages because it’s easier than verbal communication, for me it’s just more fuel for the face-to-face conversations.  So what I missed, if I missed anything, was knowing the little details people put up on their Facebooks.  But when it was all said and done– I didn’t miss it.

Sex Offender: Following writing a letter to a registered sex offender (here and here and here), I wanted more.  I contacted OASIS, the organization that I originally spoke to about sexual assault.  They have a 24-hour crisis line that they use volunteers for.  Anyone can call in– victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, children, people with questions, friend and family of people affected by any of these issues… etc.  OASIS was having a weekend-long session, teaching people about sexual assault and domestic violence and how to effectively handle situations that deal with both.

It was HEAVY.

Something that still weighs on my heart is the lack of support out there for people that struggle with those urges/act on them.  There are resources, websites, shelters, support groups…  all available for the victims/survivors.  But for those people that struggle with those thoughts and those urges and who eventually act on them and even for the people that don’t act on them…  there’s nothing.  There’s NOTHING.

That bothers me.

We have books for people that are bad with money or who covet it.  Therapists for people who don’t love themselves/make themselves throw up/don’t let themselves eat/cut their arms with razors.  Substance abuse problems?– there are programs specifically for you.  Into porn?– that one’s a popular outreach these days.  Prone to punching your wife?  Into the thrill you feel when she says no?…  sorry.  Nothing we can do.

That bothers me.

Why do Christians pick and choose who deserves our love?  our help?  our forgiveness?  our Lord?

(More on this later, maybe.)

Death Row: I wrote a letter to a woman on death row.  It was different from the letter I wrote to a registered sex offender, because there was no hiding the fact that I knew what she had done.  She knew why I was writing her.  I was writing her a letter in prison, after all.  It was also different, in that it wasn’t anonymous.  Part of the reason my letter to the sex offender was anonymous were for the obvious precautionary reasons.  But more than that, I didn’t want it to be a source of anything but encouragement.  I didn’t know what this particular person’s hangups were, what they struggle with, what a letter of encouragement from a woman [their age that they could easily see a picture of on Facebook] would do.  I wanted this letter to be different.  I wanted to be a name; to be a specific person that cares about this particular woman.

I wrote a letter to a woman that I was able to Google and, with a few clicks, learn the details of her story.  Convicted of a crime she committed when she was too young to drink, this woman succumbed to the pressures of finding something to belong to and killed two people in a gang-initiation.  My heart broke for her because I can relate to those feelings.  Oh, can I relate to those feelings.  I can understand that pressure.  I can understand wanting to belong.

Fear often drives us to act out of desperation.*

I haven’t heard back from her yet.  I don’t know if I will.  I think I may, but it’s already been several weeks.  Even if I don’t, the letter I wrote her could not have been much more divinely-inspired than it was.  I don’t need a response to know that it contained the words God wanted  her to hear.

*It’s an easy response to say that a lot of trouble would be saved if we would just find ourselves in God.  Sometimes** the easy responses are the correct responses.

**More on how most responses come too easily for me later.

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patience.

5 Oct

What do you get when you add my job plus my new role as Executive Director at Why The Woods?  65+ hour weeks.  Please be patient.  I promise– I will update my blog this week.  Several times.

death penalty.

20 Sep

Thirty-five states have the death penalty; fifteen do not.  New York and New Jersey abolished the death penalty as recently as 2007.  Michigan abolished the death penalty in 1846.  Wisconsin in 1853.  In 2009, New Mexico abolished the death penalty.  However, it wasn’t retroactive, so two previously convicted inmates still sit on death row.

Since 1976, a total of 1226 people have been executed.  56% of the 1226 defendants executed were white, 35% were African-American, and 7% were Hispanic.  This is compared to the percentage distribution of murderers in the United States, which is 34% white, 35% black, and 30% unknown.  Also since 1976, there have been 130 people released from death row due to new evidence proving their innocence.  California, Florida, and Texas make up the states with the most death row inmates.  In total, Texas has had 463 executions– four times more than the next highest state, Virginia.  Eleven women have been executed since 1976.  1052 have died by lethal injection, 157 by electrocution, 11 by gas chamber, 3 by hanging, and 3 by firing squad.

Now, the costs.  The most comprehensive study in the country found that the death penalty costs North Carolina $2.16 million per execution over the cost of sentencing murders to life imprisonment.  The average death row inmate spends 10.26 years on death row.  In North Carolina, the cost of spending a year in maximum security prison is $32,000.  When you add the costs for an inmate to spend 10.26 years on death row at $32,000 a year with the cost of actually killing him, which is $2.16 million dollars, it ends up costing about $3 million per inmate.  When you take all 1226 inmates and consider that it cost $3 million to put them on death row and then, consequently, end their lives… the total cost is $3.6 TRILLION dollars.

Most disturbing of all, since 1990 only seven countries have reported executing juveniles:  Iran, Saudia Arabia, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Yemen, Pakistan, and…  the United States.  That’s right–  several countries with questionable ethics and us.  Of the thirty-five states that have the death penalty, nineteen have a minimum age eligibility of 16-years-old.  In five states the minimum age is 17-years-old.  Only eleven states have a minimum age of 18-years-old.

Really?  We’re executing juveniles?

pen pals.

15 Sep

Number 35 on the list:  Become pen pals with someone in prison.

I don’t know anything about jail or prison.  I don’t know what the difference is between the two, besides the fact that prison sounds worse.  I don’t personally know anyone in either one of them.  As someone who recently moved to an unfamiliar part of the country, I don’t even know where a jail or prison is in relation to me.  My perception is simply what I’ve learned from watching movies.  (How accurate.)

So I did what I always do:  I looked it up on Google.

There are 35 prisons in North Carolina.

There are three levels of custody:  minimum, medium, and maximum.  Minimum security prisons are composed of non-secured dormitories that are routinely patrolled by correction officers.  The prisons generally have a fence lining the perimeter, but no watch towers or roving patrol.  Inmates assigned to minimum security prisons pose the least risk to society.  Medium security prisons are composed of secure dormitories that provide housing for up to 50 inmates.  The prison typically has a double fence perimeter with armed watch towers and armed roving patrol.  Most inmates work at self-improvement programs within the prisons, as well as work programs such as prison farm operation or highway maintenance for the Department of Transportation.  Maximum security prisons are composed of cells with sliding cell doors that are operated remotely from a secure control station.  These units are utilized to confine the most dangerous inmates who are a severe threat to public safety, correctional staff, and other inmates.  Inmates placed in maximum security prisons are typically in their cells for 23 hours a day.  During their only available hour they are allowed to shower and exercise.

Read tomorrow for more information on the costs of imprisoning an individual, programs available to inmates, and the death penalty, which happens to be in effect in North Carolina.

that’s not me.

31 Aug

I have been struggling with something lately.

I have been struggling with this blog.  Not with the ideas behind it, nor with completing anything off the list.  It’s more of an attention thing.  It makes me uncomfortable to be praised for the things that I’ve experienced in writing this blog.  I never really considered that would be a potential outcome.  Honestly, I figured most people would write me off.  I was unprepared for the heaps and heaps of positive response.

First, THANK YOU.

But second, instead of praising my efforts, consider taking on your own challenge off the 50 ways list.  If there is one thing I’ve learned in all of this, it’s that you just need a little push.  I know I did.

(Warning:  What you are about to read is going to first not relate to anything I’m talking about AT ALL and then, once you get past that, it will show you a few of the strokes of paint on my completely black canvas.)

I’m claustrophobic.  I’m literally claustrophobic, in that if you hold me too tight or stand too close or lock me in an empty ice making machine (long story)– I.  WILL.  LOSE.  IT.  I’m also mentally claustrophobic, in that as a teenager, I felt like the small town I grew up in was a cage.  So, instead of going to a state school like a lot of my friends did, I decided to move to Chicago and go to school in the city.

Moving to Chicago brought me toe-to-toe with a topic I had never really encountered before: homelessness.  Aside from a brief stint working in the projects of New Orleans, I had never really encountered homelessness.  Chicago was a much grittier world than I was accustomed to.

At first I wanted to help everyone.

“Do you have any change?”
“YES, YES, here, take all the change I’ve got.”

Next, I grew wary (and weary) and justified not caring anymore by the fact that obviously they were just going to use the money on booze or drugs.

“Do you have any change?”

“No.”

Eventually I just pretended they didn’t exist.

I pretended a human being didn’t exist.

I think I was proud of this.  Friends would come to visit and I’d say, “Oh, you’ll get used to it.  Just ignore them.”

You’ll get used to pretending a HUMAN BEING doesn’t exist.

That is the person I am capable of being.  That is the heart I am capable of having.

Last weekend I was in Boston and a man asked me if I had any change so that he could get a cup of coffee.  I said, “No, I’m so sorry, I don’t.”  I didn’t.  I wished I did.  I felt like…  you know how in those Road Runner cartoons there’s always a huge metal anvil that drops out of the sky and crushes the coyote?  Yeah– I felt like that.

I could not just ignore the fact that he existed.

I asked him his name.  “I don’t have any change but I would love to buy you a cup of coffee, James.  Where can we go for some good coffee?”

I know the person I am capable of being.  I know the heart I am capable of having.

The love that freely flows through me, the heart that has been placed inside of me– that’s not me. I know this, because I know the things that once came so so easily to me.  I know this because I know what I am capable of.  I know this because I’m constantly reminded of what He is capable of.

a funny thing.

23 Aug

A funny thing happened.

Wednesday:  I stopped using the internet.  I deleted my Facebook, unplugged my wireless card, didn’t use Skype, didn’t tweet.  I was cut off.  (It was also the most productive day of work I’ve had in a long time.)

Thursday:  I met with my friend Billy Riddle, founder and President of Why The Woods.  He asked if I’d serve on his board of directors and be in charge of a bunch of things including but not limited to:  internet activities such as starting and running a Why The Wood’s Twitter and Facebook fan page.

A funny thing indeed.

In order to work on the Why The Wood’s Facebook page, I have to reactivate my Facebook page.  I haven’t had the heart to reactivate it yet.  Well, that’s a lie.  I reactivated it, pushed enter, looked at the screen once it loaded, stated out loud, “This stresses me out.” and immediately deactivated it again.  Baby steps, I suppose.  I did, however, create a Twitter page for Why The Woods.  (www.twitter.com/whythewoods)  Follow us.

From the beginning I’ve said that the “50 ways list” isn’t a strict guideline, but rather a template for how to live life.  This instance is no different.  You have to roll with the punches.  (If you would dare call something as incredibly sweet as this opportunity a “punch”.)  So, I’m back online.  Don’t tell anyone but I’m not planning on reactivating my Facebook for another couple of weeks.

So there.

facebook.

16 Aug

Number 24 on the list:  Go TV free for a year. Or turn your TV into a pot where flowers grow.

If you personally know me, you most likely know that I don’t own a TV.  I deliberately don’t own a TV, because I want to focus on things that matter, like relationships with individuals, myself, and God.  When I sit in front of the television for any period of time, my mind shuts down.  (Isn’t that the point?)  For these reasons, I could very easily do number 24 on the list.

Confession:  God does not want us to live an easy life.  (See: “Confession“)

I am the type of person that greatly values communicating.  I write long e-mails, Skype my friends in near and far away lands, call just to say hey.  I THRIVE on my relationships with other people.  As such, social networking tools have become my friend.  Gmail has become my most visited link.  I recently joined Twitter because my friend told me it was right up my alley.  I’ve become very reachable and have enjoyed reaching.

So.

I’m getting rid of the internet for the next month.  Since number 24 was mostly a useless check off the list, I tried to think of a good alternative to going TV free.  I came up with giving up the internet for a month.  How many mindless hours have I spent on the internet, wasting time?  (I’m not answering that.)  The internet is something that has become a part of our lives.

I can’t entirely give up the internet; I need it for work.  And, though I’ve done a lot of research in preparation for my month hiatus, there may be an occasion or two where I need the internet in order to figure out how to best act on something that is on the list.  Like I said before, my goal has never been to “complete” the list in its entirety, word for word.  My goal was to take part in a passion-inducing, comfort zone stretching, heart-breaking, love-flowing, getting back to the basics challenge.

I can’t entirely give up the internet.  But I can mostly give it up.  I can remove my wireless card for my laptop at home, rendering it useless.  I can deactivate my Facebook.  I can get ridiculously behind on my Google Reader reading materials.  So since I can…  I’m going to.

Starting Wednesday, August 18th, you’ll have to call me to talk to me.

(What?!)

I’ll say it again:  Starting August 18th you will have to CALL me to TALK to me.

(What?!)