One of Them – by Kenneth Dapp in Texas
Dear Potential Adopter,
I want to thank you for taking this first step.
For most of my life I believed what the media and television wanted me to believe. Everyone convicted by the courts is a criminal and should be thrown in prison. The keys should be tossed into a lake somewhere and they should spend the rest of their miserable lives behind bars and barbed wire – so that the rest of us will be protected from them.
I believed them to be sub-human, not worthy of … anything, to be honest. When I would hear about them watching cable TV I was outraged. I mean, who do they think they are? Cable TV? Health care? A decent meal? Bread and water, I say! Don’t spend my hard-earned tax dollars on trying to help some … some convict. They’re nothing but a bunch of animals – sausages, all of them. There’s no reason why they couldn’t have stayed out of prison. My life hasn’t been a bed of roses. Let them suffer, I say.
Then I found myself standing before a jduge, court-appointed attorney by my side. I’ll be okay. I’ve seen the TV shows. I’ve been a firefighter for 26 years. I’m one of the good guys.
My heart leaps to my throat. Eight years. The sound of the gavel makes it official. I’m now one of “them.”
My family still believes as I once did, never having had to experience the judicial process. I’ve been deemed guilty, therefore I am. They turn their back on me and I find myself alone, in a place not meant for me, with no one to talk to. I’m afraid. I’m surrounded by “them.”
Weeks, then months pass. It can’t be. How is this possible? “They” are just like me. I’m no longer afraid. We talk and I realize we’re not so different. Am I becoming an animal? A sausage? Or had I been wrong all these years? Are these convicts actually human? With feelings? And people who care about them? I was so sure of myself. How could I have been so wrong? Me? I’m usually right.
Months turn into years. I now have friends. I share in their happiness, their pain. I read about a birthday, a graduation, a death. We smile, shed tears, but they never ask me about my family, because they know I’m one of them now.
I go into my cell. Bury my head. I don’t want them to know.
You may not think a few words scratched on a piece of paper to be very important but I want to let you know that they can be life changing. You have an opportunity to truly touch another human being in a way that most cannot comprehend. I’ve seen the power of words turn men away from hate and violence and lead them to enlightenment.
You may not think you have anything to offer or anything in common with someone in prison. Trust me. It doesn’t matter. Just knowing you took the time to write is more than enough to form a bond and cause one of “them” to come out from under his blanket and yell, “Hey, Fred! Look what I just got!”