How Can a Changed ‘Me’ Help My Family and Society? – by David Jennings, Jr.

I’ve been incarcerated 36 months and I have a month-and-a-half remaining. During the onset of this term, I realized that, with this being my first time in prison, a door had been opened up for a return into this system multiple times, or a permanent residence in this system.

I was 26-years old at that time and I knew from Day One that this wasn’t something I wanted to make a lifestyle out of: prison. I’m the father of three boys, ages 3, 4, and 5, the youngest of whom I haven’t even had the chance to hold in my arms – because of the error in my thinking – in order to tell him that he has a father who loves him. He was born while I was fighting my case.

I have two uncles who went through the system before me. I wondered if I was in the same cell or walking the same yard they had experienced. It hit me that one or all of my sons could wonder the same thing about me when they grow to be the age one reaches when one could be put behind bars; if they would be in the same cell in which I had been; or walking the same yard I walked; or might have any of the experiences I’ve had while going through the system. I thought about those things, and I didn’t want that for them. I knew I had to change my thinking.

When I lost my freedom, the mother of my children promised me that she would wait for me. That lasted about a year. We wrote back and forth, speaking about how much we loved each other, how much we missed each other, and what we were going to do for each other when we were reunited. Then came a period of unanswered silence. I would write her, begging her to write back – but, no answer, which lead me to curse her out in letters. And still no answer. I didn’t want to accept that she moved on. Well, I got a letter in which she told me that she, in fact, had moved on.

I felt victimized. How could she lie to me? How could she do me the way she was doing me? Then I realized that I had done it to myself. I used to be real selfish on the streets. And I was continuing my selfish thinking in prison. I acknowledged that negative thinking, and I have taken responsibility for my actions. I got myself locked up. I’ve taken myself away from my family. Through my selfish actions, I caused her to need someone to be there with her to take care of her needs, as well as the needs of my children. This is in no way, shape, or form meant to be a sob story. But, to be honest, this is an example of the error in my thinking.

My point is that my personal experiences have taught me so much. Accepting the responsibility of my actions has truly been an eye-opening experience. The consequences of one’s actions run deeper than what appears on the surface. When I saw how much I was responsible for, I realized that I was changing, because I made the choice to discontinue pointing the finger elsewhere. No longer thinking selfishly as a child does, I’ve grown into a man. Now, as a man, I pray to God for my family to be restored. I pray that I can be the leader my sons and their mother need. I pray to continue growing. I pray for success.

I’ve put my faith in God and He’s the one who has changed my thinking. All I did was listen to what he’s been saying to me through my experiences. I have faith that He’s going to restore my family. If it happens, then there is nothing He can’t do. All of the people around me will hear of what He’s done for me. For I will always proclaim His goodness toward someone who didn’t deserve it: me.  Amen.

David Jennings, Jr. is incarcerated in Lewiston, California.

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