One in A Million

The symbolic story of tribulation and redemption is represented in this early Christian painting of the biblical story of “The Three Hebrews in the Fiery Furnace”. From the Catacombs of Priscilla, Rome, Italy. Late 3rd century / Early 4th century. 

There are exceptions to every rule.  There are personalities that don’t fit any profile. There is always one in every crowd.  There are behaviors that defy explanation.  There are people that beat the odds and succeed against all probability.  Even a blind squirrel finds the occasional nut.  Never say never.  When it comes to the human spirit statistics are meaningless.  Success is 5% genius and 95% perspiration.  By the grace of God.

Whether you believe in fate, karma, luck, or Jesus one thing is certain. Some people will walk out of prison like Daniel from the lion’s den or the 3 Hebrew boys from the fiery furnace. And it probably won’t be the ones that you might have picked going in. Everyone responds differently to prison.

The pressure: the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual pain that gnaws at you relentlessly. The conditions that make a diamond out of a lump of coal reduce everything else to dust.  There really are no winners coming out of prison, everyone has lost something.  But how you deal with adversity truly is a matter of character.

Do you make the best of a bad situation or roll over and die?  Do you see the glass as half full, half empty, or as an opportunity to get more?  Prison can make you bitter if you let it, but there is always a choice.  Grow, change, adapt, learn, look to the future.  Or you can cling to the past, resist, stagnate, and die.

Erma Bombeck once wrote a book entitled “The Grass Is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank.”  Well prison is a septic tank and there is most certainly a lot of sh*t there.  But it is all about how you deal with it.  Prison makes very few people better for the experience. More people are appreciative of freedom having lost it for a period of time.  Others found opportunities for education that they had failed to take advantage of in the world and leave with a degree or vocation.  Some learn their lesson and go straight.  All of these comprise a minority of those who are released.  But they have one thing in common. They did it themselves.  They didn’t expect the system to do it for them.  They made conscious decisions that affected the outcome in a positive way rather than just sitting back and going along for the ride.

No matter where you came from or who your family is, or what happened to you before going to prison, what matters is how you used your time there.  There are only two options: either you do your time or your time does you.  Figuring this out is what separates the winners and losers in the prison lottery.

If your loved one is in prison make sure that they understand this.  There is no magic trick, sleight of hand, or hocus pocus, only hard thankless hours of effort for which there is little short-term gain.  The rewards are all long term, deferred until after they are released.  If you can’t do right in prison, then you won’t do right in the free world.  The system is against you, wants to break you, doesn’t care if you succeed.  You have to reform yourself under the worst conditions imaginable.  But to do so is to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.  To walk away from a fatal crash.  To escape the maze.  To show true character in the face of adversity.  To be the one in a million.

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