Updated: Mar 24
My federal prison inmate number was 23366-045. It was my identity for almost 7 years while I was in the Federal System, being shuttled around to 9 different institutions in that time frame. We all go through special periods in our lives, and sometimes they look very different from what we thought they would. Hence, the men I met while incarerated have a special place in my memory as it was the most unique time of my life that changed me forever.
Finding purpose is instrumental to all humans in order to have meaning in our existence and to feel like we belong in this crazy world. If we remember that presence in the moment is what brings quality to our day, then so many things in life will fall into place.
In prison, I sturggled for meaning and purpose. I would ponder, "what am I supposed to accomplish by sitting around here for years just eating and sleeping...just keeping myself alive." I felt like a capable person that could be doing so much more good in the world rather than waiting around for over a half decade to get back to reality. But, the energy of the universe spoke to me there, reminding me of something very important. Wherever you are at, is where life is happening.
After being out of prison for a few years, I have struggled with how the world works now. So much of society is money and power hungry that true purpose seems to get lost in the shuffle. I'm am happy that I picked up this book a few days ago to bring me back to reality and reassure me that life is more that money and want.
Paul Hartfield wrote the book "For Such a Time as This" that detailed how he realigned his life during his time of tribulation in prison. I had the pleasure of knowing Paul as we did several of our years in prison together at Leavenworth. It is strange to say that his book brought me back to simplicity, reminding me that life can flourish where you are, prison included.
His memoir detailed how he lived an exuberant lifestyle, successful in the eyes of our peers here in America. We are quite lucky to live in the land of the free and often take for granted the priveledges we uphold in our lives.
Paul had a successful life, according to money seeking Americans, and then had the proverbial rug pulled out from under him before he was sent to federal prison. But, he rebuilt his life there. Not by obtaining material wealth, but by using his God-given talents to lift himself up while encouraging other inmates around him to do the same. A wonderful and inspiring tale.
He lives more humbly today, enjoying the truths in life that we often overlook. Sure, finances give us the ability to maneuver within the confines of our society. Comfort and stability are quite important. I enjoy all the perks that money has afforded me over the years. But meaning comes from within, not from others.
Meaning does not have to include obtaining wealth, in the terms of dollars. I believe that we reach an age, sooner or later, when we realize that the most meaningful things in life cannot be bought, and they are most appreciated when we assert our humility for the joy of others.
I am glad I am starting to practice this in my life at the age of 45, because why would I want to waste my middle-aged years chasing money instead of happiness. I now realize that . . . "for such a time as this" happens daily . . . and this is how we find our way . . .