Miles Traveled: 79 Total Miles Traveled: 9,645 Location: Human Kindness, NC
Least We Forget: Last night, as I was talking to Sita, the thought came back to me that there is no way the powers to be will ever take an interest in the Women and Children that fill the spaces in the Jails and Prisons of the nation. Simple stated, this is their power base. The revenue and votes derived from their power base is the criminal justice industrial complex that provides the electoral gold of votes and money for electoral campaigns. In return, their power base gets the financial stability as well as a sense of power that comes from the weapons and leavers of power they have access to. In the end, change will only come from those who are willing to step into the fire of life armed only with the convictions of their convictions. When we loose this among our citizenry we will go the way of the likes of the Greeks and Romans. We indeed are casting our children on the altar of political expediency for our immediate well being.
Profiles in Courage: This is a book written by John F. Kennedy around the time he ran for president. I was a young marine and strongly impressed by what they people did and in the challenges they faced in so doing. In a way, this set me up for a fall because I have seen no political figures in my life time that could be included in such a book. This is especially so as our nation stands on the brink of an economic disaster that could or has unraveled everything that gave meaning to what represent. In one form or another, this book has been in my library for the better part of 50 years. It seems as if I have to periodically purchase it because I often lend it out and almost never get it back.
Alfie:What is it all about? This is an old movie and song that has been haunting me every now and then as I have been driving down the east coasts on what has been a solo run for the most part. As I hit the lemmings of the big cities, the rush hours that go on for miles and the rural poverty of the south. Being a spectator as I drive through the highways and byways of the nation has given me a great deal of insight that will take me a while to process. However, if nothing else, I am more committed to what is quickly moving from an odyssey to a crusade. I may have no handkerchief to tie on my lance but I do have a stout horse and clear direction with precious little tolerance for distractions.
Conversations: During the journey, I have had the great fortune to stop and visit with a number of those I would write a book about if I had the skills to do so. Not because they have achieved any great forms of distinctions but because they of what they have dedicated their lives. They are sort of like the little girl throwing sand dollars back into the ocean that have washed on the beach. When told she would never be able to save them all, she replied: no that I will not be able to do but those that I have thrown back into the ocean appreciate it.
If there is a common denominator among those I visited: it is that they have essentially become their work and they work out of their homes. They have no staffs or major organizations behind them and for the most part when they die their organizations will most likely wither on the vine. Their offices are in their homes and it is their actions they will be know for and not their works. These are listed as I encountered them on my journey from Corner to Corner of our nation.
Ike and Mickey Griffin:Horizon Communities in Prison They live in Palo Alto, California and I have known and worked with them for the better part of 10 years. First meet Mickey when we were doing the 5 day interfaith retreats in the federal prison at FCC Coleman in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Over the last decade we have collaborated in several projects and programs as individuals and organizations.
Dr.James Austin He is one of the finest old school gentlemen that it has been my pleasure to know. When I visited him, there were two books and several articles laid out in neat piles on he floor of his office and what appeared to be his dining room. He is well published and lives what he teaches. On his winter visits to Gainesville, he comes with me to visit the ladies incarcerated at Lowell CI. He can reach them with all the grace, respect, and elegance of an old school gentleman addressing a classroom of irreverent medical students which I have had the pleasure of seeing him to at Shands. I think the finest tribute to his sincerity was shown in an unsolicited thank you card with some very touching comments from the ladies at Lowell CI. Something I have never seen before or since.
Fleet Maull and Kate Crisp: Prison Dharma Network I stayed there for three days but my impression is that they must work at least 18 hours a day. They like the Griffins and Dr. Austin live their work and are their work. On the surface this may sound like workaholics or isolationists but I would argue that they are totally engaged in life.
Bo and Sita Lozoff:The Human Kindness Foundation Bo was on retreat when I arrived and Sita proved to be a most gracious host of the caliber of Dr. James Austin. Within the walls of this building are 10,000 hands that reach into thousands of darkened cells of despair and despondency to give not only hope but a mechanism for change. An organization dependent on no one person but has become the sum total of what human kindness can be and do.
I arrived in the middle of a work session where there were maybe ten volunteers stuffing envelops with newsletters. Afterwards, there was pizza and soda pope. Stuffing envelopes was a rather eclective group of men and women that had certainly been entangled in the criminal justice system as well as those that had never seen the inside of a court room. I think the nicest part was that everyone accepted everyone else as a human being sitting at the tables stuffing envelopes and everyone was not only focused on their job but very aware of those around them.
Drupon Thinley Ningpo: Drupon Rinpche like Dr. Austin represents the height of human kindness. circa 2000, we led a five day Interfaith retreat at FCC Coleman. He led the sitting while I was doing interviews in another room. One of the inmates came into the interview room to report many of the inmates were scared they would be there the rest of the day without a break because there was such an angelic expression on Drupon’s face as if he could just sit there forever and he just might sit there forever which was something they might not be able to do. This man must live on the road year around because trying to catch him is like trying to catch a greased pig at a fourth of July barbeque. Neither one of us had much money during this particular retreat so we shared a room in a local motel. Got to say, he did not speak much English at the time but he did teach me an awful lot.
Well, it is closing on midnight and have written more than I ever intended and said nothing of note. My one hope is that tomorrow, I can find another room or place at the camp site as the rest of the world beats a path to their metropolitan cells.