After last night’s Bible study class in the chapel I went to the recreation
yard to spend time with my twenty-four year old friend, Danny.
He and I spent our allotted 90 minutes talking about God and rejoicing in His goodness.
Under the bright glare of dozens of high intensity security lights that make the aluminum
razor wire perimeter fences to glitter like tinsel on a Christmas tree, we spoke about what God is doing in the lives of the
men who belong to our church congregation. And we talked about what God may have
in store for Danny; he has six years left to serve on his sentence.
Danny grew up in a housing project in the Bronx. Although he had some family members
who would take him to church when he was a kid, Danny told me that he found life in his home to be “too strict”.
He told me that when he was a teenager he longed for the seeming freedom of the streets. He wanted to hang out with a wild bunch of his peers who regularly gathered on certain
street corners in the daytime or in the public park at night.
Because of his background Danny also got involved with Santeria (a type of witchcraft)
and his family’s fascination with images of supposed saints, idols, and magical incantations that they used to try to
bring health, wealth, and happiness into their lives.
As Danny tells it, it was assumed that he would eventually drop out of school and become
a loafer. Most of the young men in his South Bronx
neighborhood were living the same way, fatalistic, and with little hope for a good future.
Eventually Danny’s criminal activities escalated.
He was stealing whatever he could in order to survive. It was a daily
struggle to find cash.
He told me that he even once held up a man who happened to be a Christian. Danny said that while he was pushing his victim around the man kept telling him, “May God bless you.” Years later this stuck with him.
Then, as his unlawful conduct began to come to the attention of the police in his neighborhood,
and the “heat” started to come down on him, Danny took off to stay with relatives on Long
Island. Yet he continued to steal and pull stick ups.
As it goes with almost all malefactors,
however, if you continue to do illegal acts, you’re eventually going to get caught.
And Danny got caught! He was arrested and
then placed in the Nassau County
jail to await his trial.
Facing lots of prison time in a county known for being tough on street crime, Danny decided
to take a ten year plea deal. But also while he was in jail Danny asked Jesus
Christ to forgive him and come into his life.
Today he is one of the stronger Christians in my congregation, and he sings in the choir,
I am confident that Danny has a good future. He’s
also old enough and wiser now to see the bigger picture. That the fast life of the streets is only and illusion and a lie.
July 22, 2005
© 2005 David Berkowitz