His real name doesn’t matter. So let’s call him Steve.
Steve made a mistake. He went to prison. The details aren’t important.
He was twenty-four, illiterate, and he felt like a worthless creature. At night, he’d lie awake thinking of people he’d disappointed. Namely, his mother.
Steve made friends with the chaplain—who discovered that Steve couldn’t read or write.
The chaplain taught Steve the basics. ABC’s, cursive, grammar. In a few years, Steve went from reading Doctor Seuss to Walt Whitman.
He enrolled in a GED correspondence course. After that: onward and upward. It took years to earn college credits through the US Mail.
He graduated with an associate’s degree.
And when the chaplain baptized Steve in a feed-trough, Steve rose from the water and hugged the chaplain.
Steve told him, “I wish I was hugging my mama right now.”
“This hug is from her and me both,” said the chaplain.
Steve’s mother passed while he was inside.
Years later, our hero joined civilian life as an older man. The world
felt like a foreign place. He found a job on a concrete crew. He grew his hair long because he could.
At work, Steve made friends with a twenty-six-year-old man who we’ll call DeRonn.
DeRonn and Steve grew close. They had deep conversations at work. DeRonn admitted that he’d once wanted to study art, but never did.
“Why not?” asked Steve.
“Because,” said DeRonn. “I dropped out at sixteen when my girlfriend got pregnant.”
A few days later, an envelope appeared in the front seat of DeRonn’s car. Inside was a little cash, wrapped with a rubber band, and a note which read:
“That’s to help pay for art school.”
That was two lifetimes ago. DeRonn is not a kid anymore. And he’s not sad, either. And as it happens, he did finish school. His degree…