The Exception to The Rule!

Jack came in griping about everything. By everything, I mean everything; his homelessness, his lack of work, his coma, his serious head injuries, his seizures, his bed bug bites, his having to wait on doctors and lawyers, his felony and how that makes him unemployable and unhouseable!  I could write pages on all his ranting and complaining, and most of it is justified, because Jack's recent life, since being incarcerated about 12 years ago, has been a living hell. Yet, if he actually stopped and observed, he'd see that his tumultuous life is somewhat similar with many of the folks that sleep on the blue mats next to him.

Jack says with his dreary monotone, "all this; because the police busted me with a small amount of marijuana. Marijuana! My life is ruined because I got caught with weed! I never hurt anybody".

I'm looking at and listening to this 40 year old using me as his sounding board. I'm fascinated! Sitting before me was "an exception to the rule"; a plain looking white guy imprisoned for marijuana! I tell him I've met a few white guys incarcerated for crack, heroin, crystal meth and selling opiates like morphine and methadone, but never marijuana. I know that comment didn't help his negative disposition; but facts are facts, and white people in Chicago rarely get convicted for possessing "pot", smoking a "blunt" or selling "weed". Facts are facts, and studies show that white folk possess, smoke and sell reefer just as frequently as their darker brothers and sisters. Facts are facts, and the disparities between races are absolutely horrifying when we observe arrests, convictions and imprisonment. Facts are facts, and all these facts and gross disparities violate so many human rights, scream "injustice" and call for masses to raise revolutionary fists crying for equality and fairness.

Jack was living in the suburbs (another exception to the rule) and the lead singer of a fairly successful Chicagoland death metal band. They had a number of die-hard fans, who followed them and would party with them. In those days, Jack was totally entrenched in the whole metalhead lifestyle of drugs, sex and rock 'n' roll; he was living it, loving it and cruising along without a care in the world.

At some point, Jack had started making cash by selling weed in these affluent northern suburbs. Business went well; the suburbanites had the money and he had the product they wanted. Someone in his crew was a "Rat" (informant), who snuck around doing what rats do, resulting in a successful police raid and this "exception to the rule."

Jack's small possession charge was a lot bigger than I originally thought. It's all in the eye of the beholder; a little to the affluent can be more than a lot to the poverty stricken. He was charged with possessing (with intent to sell) a couple to a few pounds of marijuana, which is a lot more than what the average street corner dope dealer in Uptown possesses. Jack also had $50,000 cash on him. The police report accounted for $29,000 (all smaller bills), leaving $21,000 (all hundred dollar bills) unaccounted for. Obviously Jack never saw any of that money again, with the $29,000 legally going to the police department that arrested him and the remaining $21,000 unethically and mysteriously disappearing into their own pockets. In all his anger, frustration and embarrassment, Jack stupidly told the cops to "go f@#k themselves" and to "f@#k off", so they took him away in handcuffs. They wanted him to be a "Rat" like his acquaintance, but he refused. His fate was set.....

That was his dreaded day, where Jack became "the exception to the rule." That was his dreaded day, where Jack's life changed forever and he ended up doing three years in the now extinct and notorious Joliet Correctional Center!

Since serving his time, Jack has remained drug and alcohol free. He was involved in a serious accident that left him in a coma for several months. These incidents left him homeless, moneyless, in debt and jobless. Because of this head injury, Jack now suffers never-ending headaches, infrequent seizures and depression, causing the doctors to give him 22 pills a day. Ironically, his doctors recommend medical marijuana for these symptoms, yet because of this felony he cannot use the medication that would be the most helpful for the never-ceasing dull pain that is located behind and above his left eye.

This is the story Jack told me; I believe it, I have no reason not too. I try to encourage him, I try to show him a little love, we speak about Jesus, patience and the need to keep pressing on. He's trying, he's trying hard and he's fighting to get back on track, but the rules of his present game are to wait patiently, because an apartment and an income will come. Eventually. Jack leaves my office realizing it's not all doom and gloom, he now possesses a glimmer of hope and a pinch of happiness.

Moments after Jack leaves, Lewis struts into my office wearing his electronic monitor strapped around his ankle. He's African American, around 40, on parole and just completed 3 years for possessing 15 Dime bags ($150 worth) of marijuana. I cringe at the blatant disparity!

Just moments after speaking with Lewis, I'm walking home and bump into Dan. He's African American also, in his early forties, just released from his second short stint in Cook County Jail and is now on probation for possessing 15 Nickel bags ($75 worth) of marijuana. I cringe (again) at the blatant disparity!

Let's face reality; Jack, Lewis and Dan are all very similar. All 3 of them are in their early forties. All 3 of them were caught with marijuana, but are presently drug and alcohol free. All 3 of them are battling homelessness, seeking employment and striving to break the cycle. All 3 of them are dedicated to living productive lives. Yet, their similarities have one obvious disparity; Jack is an "exception to the rule". I cringe, because this blatant reality is terribly unjust. As Jack whines about his suburban non-violent criminal offense, thousands of city dwelling residents are rotating in and out of Cook County Jail and the Illinois Department of Corrections for non-violent drug offenses. Jack's "exception to the rule" is sadly an everyday reality in many of Chicago's black and brown neighborhoods.

I cringe because I think Jesus cringes at our blatantly racist justice system. Jesus rebuked the hypocritical elite for promoting and executing two different systems. Systems based on one's standing in society; whether "male or female, Jew or Gentile, slave or free!" Just read Matthew 23! The elitist snobs were ready to stone and kill the adulterous woman, while allowing her adulterous male lover freedom. Their rules and regulations allowed them to pick and choose how and when to execute, judge and harass who they wanted and when they wanted. Jesus stood up to the "powers that be" by standing with and for the weak, fragile and poor. The "powers that be" used their rules and regulations to execute him too, not knowing this instigator would rise from the dead, and render all their power, powerless!

Our dilemma and duty, is working out how to combat our modern "powers that be" with the grace and love of Jesus.
Our dilemma and duty, is to bring His Kingdom to earth.
Our dilemma and duty, is to keep on being a voice for the "least of these", despite all the gross disparities.
Our dilemma and duty, is to give society's unforgivable forgiveness.
Our dilemma and duty, is to be as "gentle as a dove and as slick as a fox".
Our dilemma and duty, is to have the courage to love society's unlovable neighbors as we love ourselves.
Our dilemma and duty, is to be courageous enough to radically follow in Jesus footsteps.

Jesus said. "the Kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked through the dough". This was a ridiculously enormous amount of flour, especially in those days without our modern technology, the parable is hinting at how an impossibility can become possible! If we, as followers of Jesus, live out the love, grace and forgiveness of His Kingdom, we will, as secretly and silently as yeast, affect and change the world around us no matter how huge we think and know the task is.
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