Happy New Year!!!!

I want to begin 2008 by sharing an email I received from Elder Eddie Griffin. He is indeed an inspiration to me.

“There is a recurring thought that always comes to me at the end of a year. I ask myself, “Are you still here?” Yes, I am still alive. Thank God. My work on earth is not finished. It seems like a simple thing for most people. But for me, it’s special. 

You see, I have been given up for dead so many times that sometimes I feel like the cat with 9 lives. I remember, after the 1972 bank robbery, a Texas Ranger by the name of Tom Arnold captured me in a storm drain tunnel with a machine gun pointed at my head. He had to warn me, not once but twice, to give up. I had second thoughts. I wished that I were dead, rather than spend the rest of my life in prison. 

When I was taken into custody, I faced charges of bank robbery, kidnapping, and commandeering a police squad car. The state of Texas wanted to give me the death penalty for the kidnapping, but the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional at the time- in a case where no injuries occurred. Instead, I was given a reprieve and a 50-year sentence. 

In prison, I had to fight off two men with knives, who were in the process of stabbing my buddy to death. He survived and went home long before I did. And, in another hand-to-hand combat situation, dual to the death, I was clubbed with an iron pipe and had to wrestle for my life, bleeding profusely from my skull, willing myself not to lose consciousness. I survived months of solitary confinement in a refrigerated cell. I remember my eyes glazed over with frost and a delirious mirage of being on a frozen sea, stripped of all my clothes, with running water in my cell for only 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening, and a cold steel bunk to sleep on. Through it all, I survived by the grace of God to make it back home. And, by his grace, I am redeemed.

Today, I am 61 years old, a bible school teacher, a mentor to young people, a community activist and advocate for the rights of the poor and for children’s rights, and an adviser to community leaders and politicians. In the year 2000, I contracted emphysema from chain smoking. It is a condition that will take its toll on my health, and eventually my life. But I rejoice always, and laugh my way through the day, every day. It’s not so much that I am happy to be alive, just that my misadventures in life have been exciting, funny, and fun. 

But what I am most thankful for is my salvation, which I cling to dearly as I did the arm of my assailant who was on the verge of killing me in prison. Every morning, when I wake up, I give thanks. But on the eve of every New Year, I cannot help but think back.” 

Eddie Griffin (BASG)