December 23, 2020
Contact: FDC Communications
FIND PEACE AND GOOD WILL
Ladies and Gentlemen, as 2020 draws to a close, I want to write this holiday message for everyone that is a part of our system: FDC staff and your families, contract providers and your families, volunteers and your families, and inmates and offenders and your families. This is a season that many people of several faith and cultural groups pause to remember, refocus and celebrate. All around us, families are altering their daily activities around special meals, social gatherings, song, festive movies, and gift-giving to be joyful this time of year or wish they could do so.
This year, I don’t know about you, but I am not feeling as joyful. I am tired. It’s not just a physical thing, but more emotional and spiritual. I am tired of violence, predatory acts, hateful speech, and yes, I am certainly tired of the pandemic. I am tired of insults and slander, and people thinking the worst of their fellow man or woman. I am tired that I do not see more acts of kindness and charity in society. I am tired on behalf of victims of crime, victims within our staff and inmate and offender population, and always our forgotten victims (that is, the families of the incarcerated). I am just tired.
When I am tired, I become discouraged. In other words, I start to lose courage. Deep inside me, my heart hurts and my spirit sinks. I have trouble sleeping. I wonder, can it get any worse, can I bear more? That old Army voice in my head sometimes suggests at periods like this that it might be time to just “take a knee” or “pop smoke.” I am 60 years old, after all.
Do you ever feel what I am feeling?
But it is exactly at times like this that I know I must ACT and dig deep to remember truth, find encouragement, and regain my focus and balance to renew my commitment to life and service. I must reach out to those with better perspective and the wisdom and positive attitude that I need TODAY. I must search for that which brings peace to my heart, calms my thoughts at night, garners good will towards others, and choose to read and think on those matters of the spirit. Exercising helps too!
Can you relate? Are you searching for peace right now? Do you wish to be that someone who extends good will towards others?
In 1965, when I was in kindergarten, I saw the movie, “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” At one-point, poor Charlie Brown becomes so frustrated at trying to organize a Christmas play, that he yells out, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” In response, his friend Linus takes center stage and (on National public television!) recites seven verses from the Book of Luke, found in the New Testament of the Holy Bible. For those of you with a similar faith tradition as I, you probably know this story of when the Angels appeared to the shepherds to announce the birth of the Messiah, the Savior. After the announcement, the Angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
The purpose of this message is not to speak specifically of religion – yours, mine, or those of you who choose to follow a secular philosophy or creed. But in one time in history, when a people were severely oppressed by the ancient Romans, they took hope by thinking on that which was spiritual, to find peace and the desire for good will. Those Angelic words that express this hope have survived and been recited for over two thousand years!
In this holiday season, if I have just one wish for you, it is that you take an intentional step to find peace and act with good will towards others. If in the midst of this season you are tired, feel stress, sadness, loneliness, or even anger that often comes this time of year, look up and see if anyone around you is at peace. If you see someone in your circumstances, but at peace, that might be a good person to talk to. Ask them what they are thinking, what they are feeling, what they are reading, what they are doing to make it through the holidays. Their answer might just carry you through the holidays and every other challenging period for the rest of your life!
I am reminded that when my father lived in Israel, he would get stressed and discouraged with running a college in Jerusalem. Routinely, Dad would walk to the “shepherd’s field” that tradition holds as the location of the appearance of the Angels, near Bethlehem. There he would sit and meditate to find his focus and regain his balance, to find the peace he needed to carry on and serve. I am fortunate to have his many writings on matters of the spirit, to read at times like this.
My family and I, drawing from our personal faith tradition, sincerely wish you and your family a blessed Christmas with great promise for the New Year. I hope you receive our warmest wishes in the “tradition of heart” you personally practice and share in our desire and search for peace in this coming year, without the fear and effect of COVID. My New Year’s resolution is to not be the type of person that would make you tired, but to stand firm against those who would attempt to discourage us, all of us. For my part, I want to serve as someone who helped create peace and spread good will, even in our correctional environment.
As Florida's largest state agency, and the third largest state prison system in the country, FDC employs 24,000 members, incarcerates approximately 90,000 inmates and supervises nearly 155,000 offenders in the community.