Event #1: As I write this, I’m watching the eulogy of Former First Lady Betty Ford on television. The funeral is occurring at Grace Episcopal Church on the corner of Plymouth and Hall less than two miles from our house. If I finish this blog entry in time, I might take my bike down there and see if I can catch a glimpse of the motorcade as it leaves the church and heads to the Ford Museum where she’ll be buried next to her husband. In case you hadn’t guessed, Gerald and Betty Ford are from Grand Rapids.
So currently, less than two miles from my house sits Dick and Lynne Cheney, Former First Lady Barbara Bush, and Former President Bill Clinton. Pretty strange for a guy who grew up on the Great Plains of Iowa and Minnesota.
Event #2: Last night I went to prison – the Robert Handlon Level 2 Correctional Facility in Ionia, MI to be exact. Why? To play softball, of course! Each year, our church gets a group of guys together and take on the prisoners in a game of softball on the sprawling grounds of the prison.
It was the first time I’d ever been in a prison and it was fascinating. I was like a kid at a museum. I had so many questions and couldn’t stop looking around at the electric and barbed wire fencing that towered above me on all sides. It was eerie and fascinating all at the same time.
When the 11 of us first entered through security, passed the automated bars and had our ball gloves and bats inspected the grounds were eerily quiet. It’s a large complex and there was a soul to be seen anywhere. It was somber, quiet, sad. We got to the field and started warming up.
After a few minutes, the prisoners were all let out for their evening recreation time and an army of orange shorts and white shirts made their way toward the far end of the grounds for our annual match-up. Suddenly, there was smiling, laughter, jokes, and more than a little competitiveness.
We played two games – we won one and lost one – and had a blast. The men were so appreciative that we came and repeatedly thanked us for being willing to come and offer them a few hours of diversion from what is otherwise a dull day of routine under the watchful eyes of guards. They were on their best behavior because they knew that getting to play softball with someone from the other side of the barbed wire was a unique and special privilege.
They were profoundly grateful that we came and I was glad I went too. We put smiles on faces that don’t smile often just by playing a game of softball.
Oh, and by the way – I still do OK wielding a glove at first base, if I do say so myself!
Well, it looks like the service for Betty Ford is about over. Time to get on my bike and see what I can see.