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When a scruffy cat wandered into the prison yard at a Michigan correctional facility, Troy Chapman says the little orange stray disrupted the tough code of prison culture. Chapman, who was convicted of murder in 1985, says the cat reminded him that everyone wants to be needed.

 

This I believe is independently produced by Jay Alison and Dan Gateman with John Gregory and Vicky Merrick. Our new book, This I believe volume 2 collecting 75 essays from the series is now available from the NPR shop and from npr.org/thisibelieve.

 

From NPR News, this is weekend edition. I am Leanne Hansen.

 

I believe in mystery.

I believe in family.

I believe in being who I am.

I believe in the power of failure.

And I believe normal life is extraordinary.

 

This I believe.

 

Our This I believe  essay today was sent to us by an inmate at Kinross Correctional Facility on Michigan’s upper peninsula. Troy Chapman is serving a sentence of 60 to 90 years for second degree murder. So far, he’s served just under 24 of those years. Here is the series’ co-editor, independent producer Jay Alison.

 

For our series, we receive quite few essays from prisoners. Some of them would believe in their own innocence. Troy Chapman does not deny that he killed a man in a bar fight when he was 20 years old. His believe is centered on what he has learned since then. No recording equipment is allowed in the prisons, so here is Troy Chapman recorded by telephone with his essay for This I believe.

 

When the scruffy orange cat showed up in the prison yard, I was one of the first to go out there to pat it. I hadn’t touched a cat or dog in over 20 years. I spent at least 20 minutes crouching down by the Dumpster behind the kitchen as the cat rolled around and luxuriated beneath my attention. When he was expressing outwardly, I was feeling inwardly. It was an amazing bit of grace to feel him under my hand and know that I was enriching a life of another creature, with something as simple as my care. I believe that caring for something or someone in need is what makes us human. Over the next few days, I watched other prisoners responding to the cat. Every yard appeared a group of prisoners gathered there, they stood around talking, and take turns patting the cat. These were guys you would not usually find talking to each other. Several times, I saw an officer in the group, not chasing people away but just watching, and seeming to enjoy along with the prisoners. Bowls of milk and water appeared along with bread wisely placed under the edge of the Dumpster to keep the seagulls from getting it. The cat was obviously a stray and in pretty bad shape. One prisoner brought out his small blunt-tip scissors and trimmed burs and matted fur from his coat. People said that cat came to the right place, he is getting treated like a King. This was true. But as I watched I was also thinking about what the cat was doing for us. There has a lot talk about what is wrong with prisons in the America. We need more programs, we need more psychologists or treatment of various kinds. Some maybe talk about making prisons more kind. But I think what we really need is a chance to practice kindness ourselves, not receive it, but give it. After more than 2 decades here I know the kindness is not a value that’s encouraged. It was often seen as weakness. Instead the culture encourage us keeping you head down, minding you own business, and never letting yourself be vulnerable. For a few days the raggedy cat disrupted this code of prison culture. They have taken him away now, hopefully to a decent home. But did my heart good to see the effect he had on me and the man here. He didn’t have a Ph.D., he was not a criminologist or a psychologist, but by simply saying, I need some help here, he did something important for us, he needed us, and we need to be needed. I believe we all do.

 

Troy Chapman, with his essay for This I believe, recorded by telephone for Michigan’s Kinross Correctional Facility. A group is formed in support of Chapman, they contended because of the changes he has made in the almost 20 years since he committed this crime, his sentence should be commuted. You can visit npr.org/thisibelieve to find out more or to summit an essay of your own to our series. For this I believe, I am Jay Alison.

 

Jay Alison is co-editor with Dan Gateman, John Gregory and Vicky Merrick of the new book, This I believe, volume 2, more personal philosophies of remarkable men and women.

 

Support for This I believe, comes from Prudential Retirement.

 

幸福在理想中;幸福在汗水里~~
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