“The Faces of Felons: The Face of Friendship, Faith and Freedom”

“Man is unrest, but God is just: and finally justice triumphs”  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

My friend Alan is a free man once again, enjoying the love of his wife, children, grandchildren, and the rest of his family and friends after being imprisoned for 20 months for something the 5th District Court of Appeals in New Orleans said, “never should have been brought to a jury”.

I am – along with others here in Oakdale – ecstatic that he has rejoined his loved ones.

Even though the price paid by Alan and his family was incredibly high and should never have been paid, I have thanked God often for placing him here with us.  I have also thanked God for returning him to his family and friends.

No individual looks back with fondness on time spent incarcerated. Less so those who shouldn’t have been there in the first place.  As the reality of his freedom sinks in and the joy of hugs and kisses from those who love him warms his heart and soul, I pray he remembers those here who grew to cherish – and often depend on – his friendship, his counsel, his humor, and disposition.

We will miss him, but there is not a single person who new him who wasn’t elated at the news of his victory.

It was a victory of faith. Not faith in the system that placed him here in the first place, but faith in God. Faith that the Lord would work his will to undo the wrong wrought by the hand of men.

Alan is not perfect and mistakes were made; of this there is no doubt.  But that can wait for another time.  I have started – and restarted – this segment several times.  I had a tendency to gravitate too much towards the injustice of it all, but there will be time for that later as well.

For now though, I just want to share with a little about Alan – who he is, and what he meant to myself and others who were (are) fortunate enough to call him a friend.

I owe him a debt of gratitude I will not likely ever be able to repay..  My family doesn’t know him, but they know of him and as the month – and the years – go by they will see his influence on my character, my outlook on life, and my purpose for the future.

Most importantly, they will see that he helped me find my footing on my walk with the Lord and Alan – more than anyone – taught me that it is right to talk about God and he also helped me understand that even I could do it and not feel funny or embarrassed about it.

Alan is about 5’8”, I guess and is of medium builde although his 20 months of prison life added a roundness to his belly that I’m sure will disappear faster than it took to obtain it.  He’s from Texas and sounds like it.  His impersonations of Ron White (the Blue Collar Comedian) are only missing the cigar and the Scotch! Ok,  and the hair.  He wore his hair close to his scalp, as I do, and for a man in early 50’s looks a little younger.

We me at our first prison ‘job’ in CMS (construction and maintenance services) and I put quotations around ‘job’ because we really just sat on a bench in a shop– like building and do no work except that which was required to rearrange our position to shift the load of our butts on the wooden bench.

Alan played Sudoku and I became interested. He showed me how to do it then he would tear off paper from his Sudoku book for me to work on.

We ‘graduated’ to crossword puzzles. One from the Dallas News – the “Commuter” – was our favorite.

We tested the waters of friendship and found them to be warm enough to venture a little further from shore every time we talked.

Alan is a very warm, affable, easy-going individual with a knack for humorous story-telling unsurpassed by anyone else I have met her – or anywhere else for that matter.

We laughed a lot – perhaps more than we should given our situation.  But we did it to survive and the things we talked about didn’t always make us laugh.  We also touched nerves that were exposed and wounds that were raw as we shared our thoughts about who we were and why we acted in the manner we did.

My friend is not a monster.  He is a kind, gentle loving man and his belief in God and his devotion to his word runs deep.  That he lost his way a bit is not going to be challenged by him, but I believe he is balk walking with God where he belongs, and where he is comfortable.

While in Oakdale, Alan was active with the church choir and with bible study groups.  Many people do things in prison because it looks good in their “report card” or “programming” in prison vernacular.   In Alan’s case he did what he loved to do, and what he believed was necessary for him to correct the weakness – the flaw – that caused him to wander from the path of righteousness in the first place.

Perhaps,  in order to be forgiven by society for tacitly immoral behavior, one needs to be President of the United States.  I hope his not the case and that Alan and his family are allowed to go on and try to rebuild what was lost.  The loss was enormous, and not just limited to finances, although the financial cost was high- he estimates about $180,000.00!  Plus, he lost his business & his wife had to sell the home and many of their belongings.

Ultimately, his family’s faith will make everything all right, just as their faith served them well in getting him out in the first place. God’s will was done and Alan himself wrote to me giving full credit and glory to God for getting him out – not the government, nor the courts.  After all, it was the government and the court that put him in here the first place.

There will be those who are going to say “but he broke the law!”.  True, but you don’t shoot a squirrel with a nuclear warhead. (Well, maybe in Louisiana!).  You don’t punish a moral breakdown by destroying a family and an otherwise very good man.  No – you deal with things in sensible, constructive, rehabilitative ways.

All that aside, I can say it is a good day because my friend is no longer here to tell me stories, help me learn about God, or be there to listen as I tell him news – good or bad – about things happening in my life.

He’s no longer here to save a seat in church on Sunday morning, or to talk about the board game that we were developing that is centered on prison life, always in a humorous way.

He’s no longer here to share his thoughts on life, his family, God or to listen to my thoughts.  However, even though he has

He’s no longer here to share his thoughts on life, his family, God or to listen to my thoughts.  However, even though he has physically left he is spiritually here – for me anyway – in an even bigger way.

While he may have worn the face of a felon for 20 months, he now has the face of a friend whose faith has gained him his well-deserved freedom.

Numbers 6:24-26

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