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  • Doug Tjapkes

A soft answer turneth away wrath!

As so often happens, something I’m watching or something I’m reading triggers thoughts for a blog. Tuesday evening I was privately fuming about the attack on our nation’s capitol. People get all worked up over a lie, a non-issue, to the point where they actually get involved with guns and violence. But when it comes to the inhumane treatment of thousands upon thousands of prisoners, we decide that maybe we should have a meeting and talk about it. By Wednesday morning, I couldn’t wait to get to the computer to get started on my Thursday “mad-as-hell” essay. It’s easy to explain that if the state did things the right way, HFP wouldn’t be very busy. For example, we file FOIA requests for those behind bars because the state won’t let them do it. We have a panel of doctors helping because prison health care is abominable. Then I started running out of steam, so I contacted Matt. Why do we spend so much time emailing photographs, searching for family members, and just providing answers to questions? Known for his brevity, Matt quickly emailed back: HFP is family when family isn’t there. Huh? That doesn’t convey fire and anger and “fed-up-ness!” That’s warm and fuzzy. Minutes later, realizing that his answer was very short and not realizing that his words were in contrast to my mood, Matt said: I'll try to expand. Every person we work with in prison is given daily reminders of the biggest mistake in their life. To make matters worse, for most, the outside world has abandoned them as well. By the simple action of sending a photo, or trying to locate a lost friend, or providing some information on a favorite subject, HFP shows the client that they ARE worth our time. Kindness is in short supply in prison, and we hope to provide that to our clients along with some information that brightens their day. Realizing that this wasn’t fitting my theme and my mood, I chose to save his comments for another blog. He was right, of course...that was the premise on which HFP was founded. Then Matt went one step farther: I recently changed the final words on my email format. For a long time, it just said “peace,” which I do believe is also in short supply. But I changed my final words in prisoner mail to "you matter." So many feel they don't matter. By providing these simple services, we hope they remember that they do matter. So, go ahead and read Thursday’s entry. It’s OK to get mad as hell with me. But don’t stop there. It’s Friday. Re-read this piece, and feel the love and compassion that reaches from our office to the darkest corner of the dankest prison cell. ...remember those in prison as if you were together with them.

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