Dear Members and Advocates,
Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on the many blessings in our lives that have brought us light. Some readers may only recall dark moments from their past that they feel might never leave them, and they continue to experience the darkness even in their present situation. No matter what, there is always hope for a better tomorrow, because the light you seek can be found in the darkness you experience. The message for today is that light comes from darkness.
A few weeks ago I woke up early and immediately felt I should go for a walk while it was still dark. It was eerie to walk in the darkness, but I had my cell phone with me and began to photograph the darkness.
I was struck by the palm trees surrounding me, but thought the pictures would be just black and white images. When I returned home, that was indeed how they looked to me at first.
Then I experimented a bit with the color controls on my phone and found there were extraordinary possibilities in those dark images. Sometimes the dark photographs began to look a bit like paintings as they were adjusted. Stunning light did indeed come from that darkness!
I encourage you to reflect upon those who have been rays of light in your darkness. Who brought light into you life? I can name several who are directly involved with FAC. Others have been friends for years, and one has been a friend for more than half a century.
But the person who is the subject of this reflection is unusual. He became a friend because of my court case and remains close, even though we live well over a thousand miles apart.
My friend’s name is Bob. He taught at the college where I worked when my life fell apart. My arrest was a seismic shift, from which I am still learning and healing. Curiously I had never met Bob when I worked at the college. He was in a department that had essentially no connection with my teaching area. He was, and is, a man of distinction having written important books and articles related to his area of teaching of which I am quite ignorant. But he was not only a man of books, he was also a man of The Book. He reflected a deep spiritual commitment by extending friendship almost immediately after my fall.
He met with several students who prayed for those who needed help within the broader college community. Technically I was outside that circle because of my dismissal from the school. But he and the students sent me a card with short notes from each student every few weeks. This began while I was in jail the first time, and has continued regularly since then. Of course they were not the same students in the group for all those years, but Bob was the leader and guide in the process.
Months after my first time in jail, I met Bob in person for the first time. He was a kind and supportive man in his 80s. I was astonished as he did what no one else on the campus had done for me: he brought me a sense of re-connection with students. I believe they even met one time in my home.
Whenever we met, Bob was always full of encouragement. He rarely spoke of what I had done, although I would have gladly answered any of his questions. I believe I offered to answer questions, but he shook his head. “Not needed,” he told me. Probably he did not want to risk discouraging me. But he did hear me speak of the struggles I had with my immediate family. I felt I could share almost anything with him, without criticism.
When I went to prison, he continued to maintain contact. During those years he was the only person to visit me. For a man in his 80s to drive four hours to be with me for a couple of hours, and then drive four more hours back home, is amazing to me. I treasured every minute I was with him.
When I was finally released from prison he offered to come and get me, but for some reason that didn’t work. The decision was made to send me by train to Chicago, and from there I would go to the airport and fly to Florida. Bob offered to pick me up at the train station and drive me to the airport. Then I was told I had missed the train near the prison. I wondered how I could contact Bob and let him know what was happening. But with discharge I no longer had phone privileges. I had to trust that it would somehow work out.
I was escorted to the Chicago train station by a police guard in an unmarked car. We stopped just outside the station, and simply waited at the curb. But why? Then I saw Bob walk in front of the officer’s car as he crossed the Chicago street. Perfect timing! I waved and told the officer that he was the person who was to pick me up. At first the guard was skeptical, but I think my excitement at seeing Bob, and Bob‘s response when he recognized me, may have influenced him. Not yet unlocking the door, the officer rolled down his window and asked him if his name was Bob. He readily agreed, and called out my name. With this confirmation, the officer allowed me to leave the car. Bob and I crossed the street together, and he showed me some pieces of luggage he had bought me. They appeared to be brand new, although he said they were used. Perhaps he meant he had used them by bringing them to me!
It took a few minutes to move my things from a couple of prison boxes to the luggage, but soon I was ready to make my way to the airport. Bob booked a taxi for the 45 to 60 minute trip. We made the most of that time by talking about everything that happened that day, and many other topics. At the airport we had a meal together, and he insisted upon paying for it as well as the taxi fare. I tried to protest, but he insisted. That was Bob. Then we hugged and said our goodbyes, as I walked toward the boarding area. I believe that Bob paid for the airline ticket.
In Florida, we talked regularly by phone for some months, and we continue to speak with one another occasionally. He is always ready to talk and pray with me. Now retired, he has been hesitant to give up the student group. He knew it would be one of the things he would miss after retiring.
Whenever I call, he is always ready to talk. He is a very dear friend. I miss seeing him. He is like family to me. But I continue to be astonished that a person who did not know me when we were colleagues at the same school, would spend so much time and make so much effort to communicate and extend his help. I am very grateful for Bob.
The Florida Action Committee, Member Submission
40-Day DOUBLE Donation Challenge – Donations made to the ExPost Facto lawsuit cases between Dec 10-19 will be DOUBLED up to $6,000, including tax deductible donations sent to Justice Transitions, Inc. For more information see post below or email [email protected] or call 407-814-4203.
December 2 Thursday at 8:00pm ET – Monthly Membership Call – phone 319-527-3487. Topic: Employment Opportunities. If unable to connect, text “CALL ME” to same number to receive call back and be joined to the meeting.
December 9 Thursday at 8:00pm ET – phone 319-527-3487. The New Member Orientation Call is open to all members to ask questions about the organization, share resources, discuss local issues and learn about volunteer opportunities. If unable to connect, text “CALL ME” to 319-527-3487 to receive connection call.
December 10 Friday – Brevard Re-Entry Task Force Meeting. 3:00 pm. Seeking Non-registered Volunteers to serve on the Sub-Committee for Registered Citizens. Contact [email protected] or call 407-814-4203 by December 9th.
December 11 Saturday Family Support sessions – 11:00am-1:00pm. Therapist-led group session via Zoom, for family member or loved ones of registered citizens only. Must be FAC member to participate. Contact [email protected] or call 833-273-7325, Option 1.
December 11 Saturday Hillsborough Breakfast Action Club- 9:00am. For location, contact [email protected] or call 321-754-0446.
December 13 Monday at 7:00pm ET – Fearless Group Peer-led Support group – You are Not Alone. Dial (727) 731-2927 to join the Fearless Group and the peer leaders Daphne and Don. For more information about the support group, contact [email protected] or call 321-754-0446, or see Fearless Group Post
December 18 Saturday Hillsborough Holiday Party from 1:00-4:00pm. For location, contact [email protected] or call 321-754-0446.
December 24 Friday (4:00pm-10:00 pm) and December 25 (4:00pm – 8:00pm) -Virtual Holiday Party. Wanted DJs, Game Hosts, Musicians, Singers, Comedians, and other talents to fill ten hours of entertainment. Have your moment in the spotlight and take the stage. If you want to host a segment of the party, contact [email protected] or call 833-273-7325, Option 1.
Need to Talk? FAC has peer volunteers that are here to talk one-on-one, call 904-452-8322. Volunteers are not available 24/7 but you will receive a call as soon as possible. If you have an emergency, call 911, or helpline at 1-800-273-8255 or a crisis center (Listing of Crisis Centers and Hotlines)
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General Membership Call – First Thursday of each month at 8pm ET
New Member Orientation – Second Thursday of each month at 8pm ET.
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With Unity Comes Change -Get Involved and Volunteer Today!
Florida Action Committee
FAC getting me choked up. Blessings to Bob and the people like him.
Heartwarming! We all could use a Bob in our lives. Maybe those of us who are out can be a Bob to people serving their sentences.
Thanks for sharing ….