Daily Letters

A selection of letters received.

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June 17, 2004

I do not travel the common road

Dear Mr. President,

In the daily lives of ongoing struggles we each lead, we must make choices on an almost minute to minute basis that will affect every part of our lives forevermore. We can choose defeat, cynicism, betrayal, hopelessness, suicide, murder, physical violence, alcohol, drugs, and any number of other scenarios. Or, we can choose the life God has set forth for our journey, expressing the Pollyanna syndrome to fake it till we make it, the small joys of a butterfly feeding daintily, the sunset blazing before our eyes, or seeing a person for who they are, not what the world sees them as. We can choose to smile at a stranger, lend a hand to a struggling mother whose children can't seem to get under control in a store, pray for the passing person in a wheelchair, believe in the ability of our teenagers to grow up with ethics and morality regardless of what the media claims they will be.

I am a former Correction Officer who has seen and dealt with the worst our society has to offer, the throwaways that no one wants to see or hear or deal with. The street people who can make our lives miserable if we so desire to feel that way. Inside almost every one of the people incarcerated in my facility there was something that could be seen as a light shining, however dimly, however deeply buried. Taking time to find out that the embarrassment of someone being unable to read had caused a change in direction, leaving them with what they thought were no options, led to a life of crime. Being able to learn to read has changed lives before my eyes. I am not foolish enough to believe there will never be crime, never be drugs, never be a completely happy society in America, but I do see the potential still exists.

Mr. President, I do not travel the common road, I never have. I seek the different in all things, in all people. I see children pleading with sad eyes for a moment to feel loved. I see teenagers congregating in malls and on streets because they are not disciplined by parents who are emotionally absent, as well as physically. I see struggling young adults trying to reach a place of independence, yet unable to find meaningful and well paying jobs, still placing hope in the great country we live in and all its potential for greatness individually. I see a man at a busy intersection who sells bags of fruit to people driving by, and I am happy that he has initiated a service that propels his desire for income, but I also see both the horror of people locking their doors against his call, and the shouts of hello that greet him regularly. His crisp neatness reflects his heart, even through the steaming southern heat. I see a man; I ask if he was a soldier, and I thank him for his pain that he has shouldered so long, alone. In mall food courts there are thousands of stories any one of us can listen to, if we choose. we can choose to change a life, if only for a moment.

I believe in this country I was so fortunate to be born in, I cherish its freedoms and possibilities. I believe the USA has a privilege and a responsibility to carry on in the midst of strife and uncertainty the desires of our forefathers to live in freedom and hope. I was not far from the events of September 11, 2001, impacted directly and indirectly, yet I never believed we would lose our place in freedom. I still flinch at the sound of low flying planes, yet I fly. I recall the faces I saw of incarcerated participants from the first World Trade Center bombing, faces close enough that I could smell their breath, yet I recall more clearly the faces of those who aided the injured. I know soldiers deployed and redeployed to the center of the Iraqi fighting, and I hear their pride above their fear. We have to choose freedom in all its forms, without fashioning hatred and bigotry through the very freedom we are allowed to form opinions in. I walk a line of hope, with faith in our citizens, our past and our future, our elected officials, our God who leads us with each breath we take. I believe in our system, flawed though it may be, that we will rise to the occasions we face with dignity and morality and ethical behavior.

I pray for all the world, that freedom that pays such a high price will continue to seek the high road. That we will all find a healthy and promising hope in the United States of America that leads us into peace of mind and heart.

Thank you, Mr. President, that you are a man of your convictions, that you do not waver in your beliefs, and that you rely on the Word of God to guide you.

Marie, age: 52
Monroe, Louisiana

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