In the beginning of my federal sentence, I had an opportunity to sit in the chapel area overlooking the Dayroom as inmates sat looking upward to the four televisions posted for ease in visibility, while others sat playing various board games or cards, and others went to the enclosed rec-yard to play basketball, smoked cigarettes or walked in circles for exercise. I refused to purchase a Walkman equipped with a radio band and earphones so I could listen to the television. For some reason or other, I refused to get caught up in playing round after round of chess or card-playing, and I refused to go to the rec-yard to dodge an errant basketball, or others as they walked back and forth, reminding me of the tigers or other animals in the zoo, especially since you could only see the sky by looking upward and hearing cars rushing by on the nearby roads.
God held my attention to view what was occurring beneath me, both physically as well as figuratively when He spoke in my ear, “Observe the men viewing the televisions, many of which sit like baby birds with mouths open being dropped anything by mother television. I want for you something better and more meaningful. I want your stay here to be about re-creation instead of recreation. I want to strengthen your mind and your relationship with Me instead of your body.” God achieved His goal when I was released by conquering the additions in my life during those twenty-six months, although I left the facility considerably heavier than when I entered, about sixty pounds! Was it worth it? I have no regrets.
While waiting at Downstate reception before being transported to where I’m presently incarcerated, those thirteen weeks I refused to again go out to the rec-yard, the three times a week, unless I was specifically directed, by God, to deliver messages to others and there would not be a better time to do it otherwise. I went out only three times! While many of my peers clamored to get out, for almost an hour, to either whack a baseball or catch it, or sit on the grass dodging the multitude droppings of geese who lived with us depending upon the bread we were able to carry back, or again give the appearance of zoo animals who repeated their circular or back and forth walk because of the inability to contain or funnel their energy into a more meaningful enterprise, they’d, too, walk—but not me.
Today, this very moment while sitting in Cube 15 at the Groveland Correctional Facility in Sonyea, New York, being housed in a dormitory setting, it is easier for me to write today’s passage, since “yard” has been opened, despite the drizzly forty degree weather. Sure, there are many more activities here, much more yard to walk and not a circle, and I have and will again, when the Lord has a message for me to deliver and it’s more convenient to do so, or when I am able to get in at least five laps, when the weather is cooperating by bringing more warmth and sunshine, and yes, for me health-wises not wanting to pack on another sixty pounds as when in Puerto Rico, being I’m older and proud to say I am down twenty-five pounds, so far, since the beginning of this incarceration experience, I’ve come to recognize and my purpose to share this recognition, to you, is how we can make our time more meaningful and purposeful.
My fellow prisoner, we, together have an awesome opportunity to utilize the hours given, separate from meals and other projects to use the spare time to better ourselves. Think about this: while on the street we did not have a specified time for recreation, did we? Our lives were at best unmanageable and undisciplined. Many of us were too busy to really be health conscious, whether we were about the, “game” or living, “square” productive lives. Why spend an inordinate amount of time bettering our chess or Spade skills? Why buff ourselves and for what? Can you describe the television shows you saw last week and what bearing on your life will they have a year from now? In essence, why the greater need to waste time, more importantly, our lives, over what has no eternal value?
We need to begin to think in terms of eternity. The little time, whatever it is; is little when compared to eternity. There is a brother next to me who’s been down since 1965! Nine years after I was born, and now I’m 54; who has never used, never mind seen a cellphone—yet, the time he’s been incarcerated, at least 45 years is still considered small if he’s chosen to live his life for God.
Let God be the center of your day, your life, for only through Him can your life have meaning and be fulfilled no matter where you are. Why do you think He has you here to begin with? Not to increase your shirt size or decrease your waist size, but to prepare you to live with Him for eternity.