…today’s secret…prison changed my life

We were having a July lunch at Bob Evans . I asked Jaylen how he had turned his life around.

Jaylen was an ex-offender from Dayton who was now an Associate Pastor at the First Christian Church, husband, father, and a person who could hold his congregation spellbound with his words.

“I committed an armed robbery when I was seventeen,” he said. “I was living with my Grandmother Rae and she needed grocery money. I got her some money.”

He hesitated and I could see him swallow hard.

“Montgomery County bound me over as an adult and sentenced me to DOC for five years. Angel came up to me one Saturday evening and handed me a small crumpled up card with printing on one side.”

Jaylen told me Angel was Lemarcus Jones, a lifer who at eighteen had killed his abusive father. Lemarcus picked up the nickname Angel in prison because of the work he had done there – good and bad.

Jaylen swallowed hard again.

“Angel told me that he had memorized the writing on that card years ago, and only keeps it now to give to new fish like me. There were no copies of the card… only the original. That’s why it was so beat up.”

“Angel said, “Here, memorize this prayer and when you have it down, give the card back so I can pass it on again.”

The card read:

Lord, here’s my life, such as it is, a patchwork of
small successes interlaced with repeated failures – an
ordinary life, for the most part, used and sometimes
misused, definitely in need of new management. Teach
me to budget my limited resources of time and talent,
lest I squander them foolishly on selfish goals and
things that don’t really matter.

Jaylen told me he and Angel became good friends over the years. “Angel’s dead now,” said Jaylen “But, he shared things that I will never forget.”

“Angel told me I was not a burden but a resource to my family, friends, community, and country. And, over time, he showed me how.”

“I made a copy of that card and keep it in my pocket. Before I preach or teach bible studies at the church, I put my hand in my pocket and press the card between my forefinger and thumb. I rub my thumb across the words.”

He swallowed hard a third time. “Those words changed my life.”

And now readers, I must break your heart.

This story isn’t true. I made it up.

Two points to take away here.

One, we are hardwired for stories. Stories tells us how the world works and help us understand who we are.

The people you are helping all have a story. There isn’t anyone you can’t learn to love once you’ve heard their story.

Two, specifics are more believable than generalities. In my story there are 10 unique specifics. They make a story seem real, even when they are not.

Smart storytellers call these specifics ‘reality hooks.’

Do you insert ‘reality hooks’ into your stories when telling them?

A little consolation here. I am friends with an Associate Pastor whose life did turn around in prison by a mentor not named Angel. And, I ran across the prayer in some research. The author is unknown.