18 May 2011

The People That You Follow

It is not uncommon for me to receive letters from prison. On a pretty regular basis, inmates waiting release send requests for information about our agency's services in order to create a constructive plan for their reentry into society. I always respond. I love letters, and even though these are purely of a business nature, I always add a sentence or two conveying a message of encouragement, and of hope.

A few weeks ago, I received one such letter, though it was unique: Michael Layton had no release date. He is in prison for 'life'. He told me that he has been petitioning for release, and that it's helpful to present a plan during these petitions that shows his efforts to be a contructive citizen if he is ever granted release. He was hoping our services would be part of that plan. I informed him, gladly, stunned by the thought that Mr. Layton had been in the same building since I was born. As usual, I added a concluding paragraph in which I told Mr. Layton of my respect for his efforts and his persistence.

And then he wrote back:

"I just wanted to let you know that for number one just you responding made my day and number two I appreciate the letter and the information also. Thank you for reading and responding to me because for a minute i was beginning to feel dead inside. Also, thank you for choosing to care. There are men in the Bible that has done things that were morally wrong yet God used them to do great things. For some reason some people don't know this or they do and they still don't believe people can change. You hosever are not of the world and I wouldn't be surprised if you had enemies just from letting your light shine.
I sent you a poem that I wrote whil reflecting on my past. I don't know if you could find any use to this but I wanted to share something with you.
Peace, Michael"

He gave me permission to post his poem:

"The People That You Follow"

The people that I followed were not out for my best interest
But at that time "I thought they were friends" so I listened
To "whatever they said" and I did what "they wanted"
Even when it came to doing wrong I was on it.

But my concience told me, "I should have left them"
"But I ignored it cause I was trying to impress them"
"Cause I wanted to fit in and be accepted by them"
"So I began to prove myself worthy in the eyes of them."

So they started small with like, we dare
You to jump over such and such fence and steal the pears
I went from that to stealing out of corner stores
And gocery stores then that gor bored so I began to do more.

Because my appetite for doing wrong grew quick
So by the time I became a teenager I was addicted
To being just like "the guys" even though inside I cried
Cause to be honest I wasn't that type of guy.

I was wearing a  mast I don't know what else to tell you
Scared to take it off cause I didn't want to be a failure
So I wore this image that was far from who I was
And eventually that image had me involved with drugs.

I fell for "anything" because I didn't have integrity
My will to choose was compromised incessantly
And in the end I was in a bad position, "in prison"
And the people that I followed lost interest.

I wish you the best, Mr. Layton, wherever you may ever be.


  1. This is amazingly close to Augustine's "Confessions" in so many ways:

    "There was a pear tree close to our own vineyard...a group of young scoundrels, and I among them, went to shake and rob this tree."

    "But since the pleasure I got was not from the pears, it was in the crime itself, enhanced by the companionship of my fellow sinners."

    "My will the enemy held, and thence had made a chain for me, and bound me."

    "Thus soul-sick was I, and tormented, accusing myself much more severely than my wont, rolling and turning me in my chain, till that were wholly broken, whereby I now was but just, but still was, held."

    "I had made the habit become so embattled against me; for I had willingly come to the place in which I did not wish to be"

  2. This made me want to weep. How beautiful that your sentences helped spark life in him again!