I just had lunch with Craig Townsend.
He’s a former inmate I met last year through a story I wrote about children with incarcerated parents.
He got out of prison last Thursday.
Craig’s trying to put his life back together, one small piece at a time.
We are talking about basics.
Where to live. Getting a job. And building a relationship with his family.
Craig and his wife have known each other 17 years. She was born in Serbia and emigrated to the United States when she was 5 years old.
He is black and grew up in Chicago.
They have two intelligent and thoughtful daughters, who are entering ninth and seventh grades respectively.
Craig has been incarcerated twice, both times related to his drug addiction.
The first year after he got out went horribly. The family had no preparation, he got back onto the street, used again and ended up getting arrested and sent back to prison.
Craig and I exchanged a lot of letters since we met last summer.
I’m just a year older than him and we shared thoughts about basketball, politics and our families.
He speaks five languages, including Spanish, Polish and Serbian. He also reads voraciously, so I would sent him copies of blog posts I had written about books I had read.
One of them was about Ava Kadishson Schieber’s Soundless Roar.
It tells through poems, stories and images her experience of survival during World War II. As a Jew, she was in danger of being killed as her father and sister were during that horrific time.
Ava hid with the family of her sister’s fiancé, farming folks who told her she could not speak because she would be identified as not from the area and, therefore, as Jewish.
To speak was to die. And not just her death. The family who sheltered her would be murdered, too.
So she pretended to be deaf and mute for four years.
Craig liked the blog post, so I later sent him a copy of Ava’s book.
During our lunch today, he talked about rebuilding trust with his daughters, applying the lessons of patience he learned while in prison and about the inspiration Ava gave him.
He said he talked about Ava during one of the meetings, about how she wrote and said that light can pierce denial and ignorance.
I don’t know what will happen with Craig, but I do know that I am rooting for him and his family.
I also know that I look forward to introducing him to Ava, to hearing them speak Serbian and to seeing him meet the woman who inspired him to do better when he was locked up hundreds of miles from his family.