I was standing in an airport yesterday when I had a sudden "thought burst" about the Dedication for this book. Sadly, I know many young men who are currently in jail. One of their names came to mind for the Dedication. I decided to dedicate this book to all of the young people who are currently in jail.
The word "vacation" is the term for jail time in the culture of "the hood." A prison sentence has become an acceptable part of life. Behind the concrete walls, barbed wire fences and steel bars there are young people devoid of hope. Some of these guys have not been in trouble for years but somehow they have "caught a case." Some are innocent; all of them hunger for hope. The longer they languish in a hopeless place, the more they become acclimated to hopelessness.
My wife and I are climbing the highpoints of all 50 Sates in America. Earlier this year I experienced altitude sickness on Mt. Humphrey' at 12,637'. A few days later, we reached the top of Wheeler Peak (13,161') after 2 separate attempts on successive days. All symptoms of altitude sickness were gone as my body became acclimatized to the higher altitudes. Back home in New York, we take young people from the inner city up to the Adirondack Mountains about 350 miles away from the hood. They learn perseverance in hiking to the top of a very formidable mountain. Most of them say it's the hardest thing they have ever done.
They guys in jail are climbing another type of mountain. It's a mountain of self esteem. Becoming acclimated to a prison culture can devalue a person. They derive value from protecting themselves; usually by hurting others. Redeeming human lives does not seem to be the goal in any of the prisons I've visited. Guards lose compassion through the abuse of hardened prisoners. Hopelessness robs human beings of esteem, empathy and compassion.
On of my best friends was a triple murderer who taught me a lot about redeeming human lives. Jerry Balone spent over 37 years in prison. It was a prison program that taught him that he did not have to be a thug and hurt other people before they hurt him. That's how he was raised in a very abusive environment. Abuse was the only life he knew. When he finally learned about respecting yourself and others, he understood and felt bad for what he had done. He became a changed man. I watched him as he spoke to school kids in Erie and Niagara Counties. Jerry was making a difference. He was providing hope.
This book on Mentoring is dedicated to those people in jail who need hope. The jail may be a personal prison or a set of bars. Hope is something that we all need. Hope is something that we can share. The concepts in this book are not rocket science, they are simply tools to help teach folks how to spread hope through our actions.
Thanks for your time. Go do something nice for somebody. Go give somebody hope.