Aaron just got released from prison, and you can hear the release in his voice. Enthused about life and his newfound liberation, I could not help but be lifted by his contagious spirit. Aaron is the man who I mentioned in the Little Easter 4 post. Aaron and his mother came to meet me, and I left our meeting feeling more blessed than they could ever imagine.
I had a chance to talk with Aaron today and hear more of his story.
Aaron’s father went to prison when Aaron was six years old, on drug and assault convictions. So Aaron was left without a father, and his mother struggled to provide for Aaron and his four sisters. She remarried, but the step-father was an alcoholic. Aaron felt that he never had a positive role model in his life and that his mother took out her angry resentment on him that she felt toward the men who let her down in her life. Adrift, angry, abandoned, Aaron was on his own for clothes, food, other necessities, but says that he loved school, tried to never miss a day, and graduated from high school with straight As. Aaron found solace in some friends who accepted him for who he was, yet led him into habits of drinking, smoking weed, and sometimes shoplifting. Aaron remembers times when he shoplifted food to get the first meal he had eaten in days, and recalls how he walked several miles to his high school graduation because his step-father was too drunk to drive him.
One night when Aaron was 19, Aaron and his friends attempted to shoplift some things from a convenience store. The clerk tried to stop them by hitting Aaron in the nose with a telephone. Aaron fought back by taking off his belt and swinging it at the clerk. Aaron was caught, tried, convicted, and sentenced to 30 years in prison for aggravated robbery. Yes, the belt was the “weapon” that aggravated his sentence. Mistake, of course. Wrongful act, certainly. Survival, likely. Excessive punishment, undoubtedly. Lost soul wandering aimlessly in the wrong places, finding suffering upon suffering, yes indeed.
But Aaron did enough of his time in an entirely satisfactory manner and was released on parole after 14 years in the penitentiary. After three and a half successful years on parole, a serious and extenuating family circumstance in which Aaron chose to sacrifice himself to help someone he cared about get out of a bad situation, Aaron’s parole was violated and he found himself back in prison for another five and a half years. Aaron had simply left the state to rescue his ailing step-father from an abusive situation, failed to report only one time because of this situation, and found himself back behind bars. A prisoner of parole. Aaron is now on parole for eight more years, with a GPS tracker, only allowing him to be out of his house from 8 am to 5 pm, required to find a job, and never leave the state of Texas. He is having tremendous difficulty getting an ID or driver’s license, which adds another enormous obstacle in obtaining the necessary employment required by parole.
But Aaron has not let these harsh realities deter him from his dreams. He loves to read, he tells me. In prison, he treasured the opportunity to read as much as he possibly could. He chose to keep gaining knowledge, asserting its power and the freedom it provided him. His focus and passion has been and continues to be criminal law. He has written briefs, motions, read all the codes, and advised many along his path. He just this afternoon told me with great joy that he was enrolled to start in a community college program where he will earn a paralegal studies degree. Aaron wants to work in the law, serving young people much like himself, seeking love and justice with them in a world that is all too often unrelenting in the suffering it brings.
Aaron, thank you for showing us what it means to live free, even when shackled by chains most of us can never imagine. We cannot wait to see what God has in store for you.