Sunday, July 19, 2009

Pondering Life

Last night a childhood friend from the old neighborhood happened to find me on Facebook, and we had a wonderful online conversation. But soon we both got tired of typing, and I agreed to contact her by phone where the conversation continued.

It was so good to hear her voice again, to hear a familiar accent from home. We talked about our lives since we left the old neighborhood. We congratulated each other for having gotten out. We talked about our triumphs as well as our failures. In fact, the conversation was going on quite smoothly until I asked about her brother. Then she just broke down. Leave it to me to ruin a perfectly good conversation.

But how was I to know that he had been incarcerated since 1985? How was I to know that soon after I left, he became so addicted to drugs that his own family could not recognize the person he had become? How was I to know that he was said to have shot and killed a state trooper while fleeing from a botched robbery attempt in Mississippi no less? That he was so high during the robbery and the subsequent chase that he did not even know if he was the actual trigger man or not? That he did not even remember the actual robbery? How was I to know that he ended up getting life in prison with no chance for parole?

After I hung up the phone, I sat and pondered that for a moment. Life. Without any chance of seeing the outside. Ever. And he was the same age as I.

I thought about all I have done since 1985. Since that time I have gotten married, divorced, and remarried. Since that time I have done a stint in the military and completed college and grad school. Since that time I have traveled all over the world. Since that time I have watched one set of children grow to adulthood, another set of children reach their teens, and buried another child. Since that time, my life has been a mixture of both highs and lows, but the highs have vastly outnumbered the lows.

But he will not get to experience any of that. He will spend the rest of his life paying for the actions he took during one moment in time. That is a hard price to pay.

And then I realized how blessed I really was. I realized how easily it could have been me and not him. And at once I am thankful. I am thankful for the good as well as the bad. I am thankful for growing up in a home with both my parents. I am thankful for the care and input of my extended family—my grandparents, my aunts and uncles, and a host of relatives who were not kin by blood, but who saw to it during my childhood that I walked the straight and narrow.

To that end, I would like to leave you with a poem I wrote when I was a freshman in college. I am by no means a poet, but somehow I won some prize for it. I don’t remember what contest or even what I won. But please share in my thanksgiving despite its many flaws.

Simply Because I’m Blessed

By Max Reddick

I got up early this morning. Perhaps too early.

I was tired; it seems I just don’t have enough time to rest

But I did wake up

And I smiled

Because I was blessed

And as usual, my old car didn’t want to start this morning

The air is out. The radio don’t work, I can go only so fast

But I’m riding when I could be walking

So I have to smile

Because I am blessed

I worked my ass off all day today

Too hard, for too little pay

My boss cussed me out before I could get clocked in good,

And my co-workers talked about me like a dog behind my back

But, you know, at least I was working

So, beside it all, I smiled

Because I’m blessed

I pulled into the driveway and took a good look at my home

It weren’t no mansion

Looked like I could count the blades of grass in the yard

And if you looked real hard

It looked like the whole thing was leaning to one side

But inside it was toasty and warm

And there were people there who loved me,

And I loved them

And I could be sleeping somewhere under a freeway in a cardboard box

So I had to smile

Because I’m blessed

Before I lay down to sleep

I stood before the mirror

And looked at the image looking back at me

My hair wasn’t as thick as it used to be

I could even spot a gray hair here and there

My stomach hung way over my belt

And I looked way too old for my years.

I wasn’t the rich young tycoon of my dreams

But I was here. I was alive. And I was happy

I was sane, and I wasn’t in nobody’s jail

I had all my senses still intact

So I just had to smile

Simply because I’m blessed


♥ CG ♥ said...

Situations like this are definitely eyeopening and require some amount of reflection. I often get overwhelmed by the thought of being saved by grace, even with all the unwise things I've done.

Anonymous said...

Hearing others' misfortune can sometimes be the catalyst for us to count our blessings, though it really shouldn't. It appears tragic to us because it's not our journey; not a cross we would want to bear so to speak. I don't think lifetime incarceration is something anyone aspires to but sometimes the darkest of circumstance cause people to see the light of hope that was not visible before. Never count someone out, just let them know they can count on you to respect their process.


Max Reddick said...

@ CurvyGurl

Especially with the unwise things I've done! I mean, how do some people get away with stuff while others get away?

@ ggSpiritWrites

Well said. I get your message. But sometimes it's just beyond my understanding. When we were growing up, I would have never thought something like this would happen.

But who knows? That jail sentence may have saved his life, and he might just find his meaning there behind bars.

uglyblackjohn said...

As a guy who is trying to make the best of a second chance for the thousanth time - I always gotta' know how blessed I am too.

I just got a call from one brother in jail and another from my other brother released to a halfway house.

When I tell stories of my childhood to young cousins - "You were baaad!", is all they say.
But I was the good one of the bunch.

Sometimes I wonder why God kept me safe in rough situations and alive in others.
But maybe this is why I am patient when dealing with a bunch of bad little cousins and nephews.
I just thank God for getting me through it by trying to help others through the same conditions.

Sometimes you just have to accept that you are blessed.

Ann Brock said...

Favor ain't fair! Thank God for favor.

msladyDeborah said...


What a high spirited post this is!

We all have to count our blessings. Because no one lives a life with the highs and lows.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Smh that was so tragic. But we know that type of thing has happened so many times. I think about that too. Years fought in the name of freedom to only become a self imposed slave. It doesn't seem fair that one mistake should end that way but that's the way it is. I empathize with the man when the drug haze faded because he has to sit and think about an event he can't even remember that cost him his life.

That poem was beautiful too. Made me reflect on the fact that at times I feel discouraged about my life and its disadvantages but there are so many advantages. Thank you for giving me something positive to reflect on. Another excellent write from an excellent writer.

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