An inmate came up to me during my last visit to the prison to tell me that a man we both know had had a stroke. A bit later, one of the other volunteers told us he hadn’t been found for two days. The paralysis is extensive, and they don’t believe rehabilitation will be possible.
I was taken aback at the news as I had just seen this man at Christmastime. At that time, he had been his usual jovial, warm, thoughtful self, vibrant in every way. I’ve known him for years, though – I’m sorry to say – more as an acquaintance than friend. On Christmas Eve he told me his wife had died almost two years previously. However, he had recently had a most wonderful vacation with all of his adult children, visiting the Grand Canyon.
Jonathan (as I will refer to him here) has been involved in prison ministry for a long time, as well as with AA. He was part of an Alcoholics Anonymous group at the prison, and I know, had made many friends there.
Thinking about him in his present condition caused me to ask myself the question so many of us ask when loved ones are stricken with tragedy: Lord, why him?
From the reaction I saw in the inmates, I know he means a lot to them. Jonathan is the kind of man you just like. He exudes warmth and acceptance, always able to offer wise counsel, and has always been for me an example for how we should be living. Always able to meet a person on whatever level he or she is at, conversation is always more than empty talk. His very presence exudes warmth and acceptance. So, again I ask why him?
Perhaps it is because he is so likeable. Perhaps it’s because he has gained the respect of so many. Could it be that his very existence has served to create compassion in the hearts of men who may otherwise not be likely to show it? The men in the group were visibly affected by the news of Jonathan’s condition. I hope and I pray their compassion for one man will, because of him, now flow more easily to others – especially as they leave the prison setting.