written for the 2nd Annual Gathering
by Jillayne, an 18 year old who came to HOPE-HOWSE from the streets
sHope to all those who need love
On the verge of a breakdown? We'll help you move on!
People from all walks of life holding hands
Everyone will be alright in the end
Hearts united into a world of our very own
On going through the trials and tribulations
We all stand together through the good, the bad and the out right ugly
Singing as one voice in the
Everlasting love through and through, and yes ... we love you, too.
I wanted to try to express my feelings about [the HOPE-HOWSE] "gathering". Let me share the thoughts that came to me when listening to a tape by a preacher friend of mine.
A preacher I listen to was going through what he called 'life lessons' and when he came to the one that follows, I couldn't help but think of HOPE-HOWSE's "gathering". This was his life-lesson #3 and the concept was:
"If you find yourself among strange people, don't try to get away too soon because you're probably God's chosen instrument to them."
He used a number of examples such as Philip hooking up with the Ethiopian eunuch officer; and the apostle Paul, the expert Jew of his time, being sent to minister to the gentiles, while a fisherman like Peter was being sent to minister to the Jews.
But this preacher's examples of strangeness doesn't seem strange at all once you take in the people at a HOPE-HOWSE "gathering".
Although each person is unique in their life experiences, there is a common thread that ties all our hearts together and that is love and honesty and the willingness to share what we have of both.
So, if you find yourself in strange company at a HOPE-HOWSE "gathering", which you undoubtedly will, it's probably because you are God's chosen instrument to them. But you must realize then, that you will be strange to all the others because they are God's chosen instrument to you.
I couldn't imagine a better environment in which to belong.
I wanted to thank you for inviting me to, and including me in the 2nd annual HOPE-HOWSE gathering. For me, the experience of meeting others who have the same compassion for human life as you, was an inspiring gift, that will continue to influence my life.
Before this gathering, I knew that YOU had a passion for your mission to inspire us all to reach out to our fellow man unconditionally. After the HOPE-HOWSE gathering I went home and began to think about all the different people I met, the various stories I had heard and the new feelings I acquired. As much as HOPE-HOWSE is an action, it is also a growth process.
My reaction to others will be different as a result of the afternoon I spent among a comedian, a police officer, a Christian, a Jew, a a former gang member, a previously unloved child of "the system," a hummingbird, a poet, a singer, an astrologer, an office manager, and the voices of 2 men on death row, just to name a few. What I saw in all who were at the HH gathering was an internal spark, a need to make a difference. They all came in support of jane davis but were there to see how they too could make a positive contribution to our world. After the HH gathering, I knew, that given an opportunity, there were many others that also care as much as you and want to take action.
An ancient proverb of unknown origin comes to mind when I think of HOPE-HOWSE:
"It is better to light a single candle, than to curse the darkness." I believe it is you, jane, that has lit the first candle in the darkness and that you are spreading light throughout the world, one "candle" at a time.
The work of HOPE-HOWSE speaks to the very heart of the prophetic injunction issued in Deuteronomy, "Justice, justice shalt thou follow, that thou mayest live... " not just in the formal sense as it applies to our legal system, but in the way HOPE-HOWSE works each day to assure that justice prevails in all our dealings with each other. I know I speak for many at Shema Yisrael, The Open Synagogue, [in Atlanta, GA] who wish you continued success in your goal for a more just society.
Thank you for all that you contribute of yourself each day,
I'd had the privilege of attending the first HOPE-HOWSE gathering last year, and I recalled thinking that it was akin to a kind of utopia. The kind, at least, that I would propose to create, where people respect each other, regardless of differences. The kind of place where diversity is not simply tolerated, but embraced and celebrated. For this reason I very much looked forward to this year's gathering, and can only hope that I was able to give a fraction of what I took away with me.
While a celebration of diversity is an incredible experience, it would be missing something if we did not also celebrate our sameness. I believe that it is the recognition of that sameness we share as human beings that enables us to appreciate rather than fear and judge our differences. I may see a different color, size, sexual orientation, faith, etc. (the possibilities are wonderfully endless), but experiencing the human condition side-by-side with you disables me from seeing you as inferior to me. Discrimination, bigotry and hatred are allowed to emerge only when I am blind to our common experience.
What I continue to struggle with, however, is that this same equation also disables me from being inferior to you. I was reminded of this in a profound way at the [HOPE-HOWSE] gatherings; now we'll see if I can put it into practice. I am grateful to jane and to the people of HOPE-HOWSE for helping me with this often difficult task.
Love and peace,
The [HOPE-HOWSE] gathering experience continues to break down my definitions of the world as I understand them when I come to your home and sit and talk to people whom I would never had met, if it were not for the work of HOPE-HOWSE. People that I would not dream of exposing my 11 year old daughter to and yet, there she was at a party with people who had been in gangs and perhaps even murdered and somehow, she was safe.
I can't explain it and I can't even say that I can begin to really understand it. I can talk about the need to stop judging one another. To stop the hatred and fear of people from different religious backgrounds or even the same religion, but a different sect of that religion and yet the type of non-judgement it takes to do what you do is not something I have yet been able to come to. I felt badly when the phone passed around with the death row inmates and I didn't speak. I didn't have the courage. What would it have hurt to speak to someone confined to a life in jail with the possibility of death looming over them? Yet I did not take the phone and if it was passed to me tomorrow I don't know that I would.
So, all I can say Jane is thank G-d for you , for HOPE-HOWSE, for the work that you do and for the warmth and love you bring to the world. I am proud to have been a participant in the gathering.
Greetings to one and all. Before I introduce myself, I would like to take a moment to thank Jane for putting this [the HOPE-HOWSE gathering] together and for helping me to be a part of it. Jane Davis, you are a truly unique woman and I am proud to call you my friend. Thank you.
My name is Tony Enis and I am on Death Row at Pontiac Correctional Center in Illinois. I feel privileged and honored for this opportunity to share my thoughts and a part of myself with all of you.
For the last 13 years, I have languished on the doorstep of death, and with every new sunrise of every new day of each of those 13 years, I have awakened with the same question resounding in my mind: Why? Why am I here? I have committed no crime, and yet, I stand branded as a criminal. Not just a criminal, but the worst of criminals --- a murderer, an animal. I could have easily succumbed to that label and become the animal that many, for the sake of their own consciences, probably wish I was. There was one thing, one unambiguous fact that kept me from succumbing to those labels, and that fact is that I am not a murderer or an animal. An animal does not have a hand in which to take a paintbrush and create something beautiful on what was once a blank piece of canvas. Nor can an animal pick up a pen and take a thought from its head and translate that thought into moving, touching poetic verse, but I can, therefore, I must be a human being.
Please, do understand that I am not unsympathetic to the victims of violent crime. How can any human being be anything other than sympathetic to something like that? In any society, especially a civilized one, crime certainly cannot go unpunished, however, what do we gain as a nation by taking a life? I cannot begin to imagine the pain of losing someone I love to a violent act, but neither can I imagine how the death of the perpetrator of that act would ease my pain or fill that hole of emptiness, that missing part of me. Nothing ever would. So, what would be the point
Still, I did not write this letter to open your eyes as to who I am or my plight, for my story is the same as many others. I wrote this letterbecause I want you to open your eyes, to look inward at yourselves. I do not seek your compassion; not even your understanding do I crave. I seek that which was bestowed upon all of us when we were deep in our mothers? wombs. I seek your humanity, that which is inherent in all of us regardless of race, gender, creed, or color. We have become a decadent nation, a selfish people, easily satisfied and committed to nothing. There are times when one must go above and beyond his or her own self-interest, and grab hold of the courage of their convictions and act. That time is upon us. We are on the threshold of a defining moment in the death penalty debate and a defining moment in the history of America.
Although I was born in the latter half of the sixties, I am a student of history, and yes, I do dare to compare this struggle to the Civil Rights struggle of the sixties. In those days of darkness, being on the side of integration was not the popular side to be on, being on the side of anti-discrimination was not the popular side to be on, but we, as a nation, beginning with a few and becoming many, rose up and took on that moral challenge, and did what was fair, did what was right, and did what was human.
Now, once again, this nation faces a moral crisis, and once again, many of the helpless are poor, black, and brown, and once again, the issue is more about politics than people. It is all well and good for those in power to call for tax cuts, to champion healthcare for all, or to preserve the environment, but when those in power call out for blood and death, then that power is running amok and must be checked before it can erode and eventually destroy the principles upon which this country was made great.
As I again allude to those dark days of the sixties, the words of three men come to mind, and I'd like to share their words with you, perhaps not verbatim, but I will try. Martin Luther King once said, "If a man hasn't found something worth dying for, he isn't living." J.F.K. once said, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." And Bobby Kennedy said, "Some men see things as they are and ask, why? I dream things that never were and ask, why not?" I say to you all, are you living? I ask you, what are you willing to do for your country? And I say to you, if you are not taking an active stand, why not? We may never see the likes of those men again, but their words did not stop inspiring us as a people or a nation. Their dreams need not be deferred, but they can never come to fruition in an America that kills its own.
In closing, I again ask you to look deep within yourselves, and to grab hold of the courage of your convictions. I ask you to please remember that part of you that makes us all special. Please, remember your humanity. God bless all of you.
With love and respect,
PRAYER FOR HOPE-HOWSE in honor of it's 2nd anniversary...
God, you are known by many names: The Creator, Ruach Elochim, Yahweh, Allah, Vishua, Jehovah, Wanka Tanka, Great Spirit. All of them must sound like music to You when lifted up in righteous prayers, thanksgiving and honor.
God, we hear Your voice in the wind, the waves and the whispering rustle of leaves.
We see You in the mystery of the ocean, the majesty of the mountain, the innocent eyes of a child.
We smell You in the coming rain, the ripening of the crops, new puppy fur.
We taste you in the sweetness of the fruit, the cool drink of water, a lover's kiss.
We touch you when we reach out to another needing comfort, the squeeze of a hand, the kiss on a cheek.
God, Your breath gives life to all the world. Hear us, Your children. We need your strength, guidance and wisdom. Let our eyes see You in every being You have created and let us always remember they are your precious creations.
Help us to walk in beauty, righteousness and love. Help us to understand each other, respect each other and honor each other because, in so doing, we honor You.
Help us to make our hands respect the things that You have created. To remember that we may not have been the first 'man' to walk on the moon. To remember that a land and People existed long before an explorer thinks he discovered' it.
Make us wise enough to understand the things You have taught Your people and humble enough to understand, accept and honor beliefs of others which may not be understood or accepted by us.
Help us to remain valiant in the face of adversity and strong enough to stand up to that which is inherently wrong and unjust and to try to change those things.
Help us to learn the lessons you have hidden in every rock, every blade of grass, every animal and insect.
Help us to know that compassion and aid give strength...not only to the receiver but the giver as well. Help us to not misconstrue this strength as a power which makes us greater than our brother or sister, but better people because of it and an honor unto You.
Let us always have room for You in our hearts and minds and spirit.
Give us the strength to put action behind our words and bite into our convictions.
Help us to remember what we have seen and experience because that which is forgotten returns to the circling winds.
Help us to understand that Love is just a word when action and spirit are not present.
God, help us to remember the lesson you taught us with Ant medicine. Ant...an insect which many of us step on without thought. Ant, a tiny industrious, persistent, patient Ant. Ant can carry a leaf hundreds of miles just to get it back to the anthill. Some can strip a forest bare, if it takes them a year. Ant's medicine is the power of patience and persistence. Ant is a builder, like Beaver; aggressive, like Badger; scrutinizes, like Mouse; has stamina, like Elk; and give-away, like Turkey. All works for all that reside in the anthill. Self-sacrifice is a part of Ant medicine, but even greater is patience. In today's society, Ant medicine is a rare quality. Today, most seem to want everything completed "right now"!
Help us to remember that Ant medicine teaches patience and the sweet victory and rewards gained at the 'end of the line.' To show trust and patience in life situations. Help us to remember that we will receive that which we need at the time we need it most. Ant works for the good of the whole. Help us to do likewise.
God, bless us with these things and to remember the words in Proverbs 31:26: 'She openeth her mouth with wisdom and in her tongue is the law of kindness.'
from Shaman Neeshana 9/3/00