GIVING WHAT WAS GIVEN TO ME
I want to tell you about the way that we are preparing a place for the men at My Father's House.
My Father’s House is a community, not a physical place. I have described it as a community of life and love, a community of healing and growth, a safe place, emotionally and spiritually for men to move forward. It is all of those things, and others that are hard to define.
When I got out of prison, there was a place waiting for me. Even today, I can remember coming to my mother's condominium, and walking in the door. There, in the front hall, were balloons and gifts from my family, welcoming me home. Mom showed me to my room, in which was a bed, a dresser and a nightstand, a desk with a chair, and an easy chair with a table and lamp for reading. The room itself was at least three times larger than the cell that I had lived in the previous twenty years. The walls were drywall instead of concrete. The bed was comfortable instead of a steel slab with a thin mattress on it. On the walls were pictures and other decorations to beautify the space. On the far wall was a large window that I could look out, and open. I took it all in in silence, and Mom asked me “Is it okay?” With tears rolling down my cheeks I said, “It's wonderful.” It was a physical place; but it was also much more. It spoke of the love, concern and support of the people who made it available, my family. It sent the message that those things were available to me to help me move forward with my life.
Over the next days and weeks, I had a lot of help from that family getting done all the things I needed to. I had to get an ID, and get signed up for Medicaid and food stamps while I looked for a job. I wanted to see a real doctor about some medical conditions that had not been addressed for many years. Even as I write these words, I am aware that they cannot describe the feelings accompanying this journey. It's impossible to explain to you the level of anxiety and apprehension that you become accustomed to in prison. There is a constant awareness of the danger that surrounds you, and a heightened sense of vigilance that is there all the time. Ironically, after I got out, I was afraid not to be afraid. I was aware that I was not in immediate physical danger, but it provoked anxiety in me not to be anxious about that. I had become so accustomed to constantly being aware of the danger around me, that not feeling that danger felt dangerous.
It takes a lot of love and time for that feeling to begin to subside. That is the place in a man’s life we’re striving to provide at My Father’s House.
There are seven men who have lived or currently live at My Father’s House since we began. They come from different pasts and have had individual experiences with the justice system. One man was on probation and in the county jail for less than year. Another spent almost fifty years in prison. Some are single, others have been husbands, and are fathers. They come from different states, and different cultures.
But all have several things in common: they want to change and grow; they want to heal and become whole; they have the same three basic needs everyone does, the need for acceptance, affirmation and affection. They are all God’s children.