I’ve built walls,
A fortress deep and mighty,
That none may penetrate.
I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain.
These words from Simon and Garfunkel‘s 1966 hit song pretty much describes me for most of my life. As a child living in Memphis, Tenn., I grew up not liking the world I was seeing. I watched my mother struggle alone to feed her three kids. The struggles got worse after she suffered a stroke in her mid-20s. Add to this, some of her boyfriends were abusive.
The first time I ever wanted to kill someone occurred when I was 8 or 9. The boyfriend attacked my mother and beat her very badly. He did not stop until I ran into the room, wielding a “butcher’s knife” and threatened to kill him. I’d had enough. He left at that point. Even now, I wonder if I should have killed him. She was hospitalized and it took weeks for her to recover from her injuries.
As time went on, my mother noticed I had withdrawn from the world. I did not make friends with the neighborhood children. I was not mean to anyone. I was always kind and respectful. If someone asked for help I would oblige them. But I did not want to get involved with them.
When I was in the 5th grade my mother commented to a friend, “I don’t think he needs us (my family) or anyone else. He lives in his own world and blocks us out of it.” When I reached junior high school one of my teachers made a similar comment: “I don’t worry about Bernard. He doesn’t need anything. All he needs is for us to get out of his way and let him work.”
The truth is I loved my mother and sisters very much. But I was learning to trust and believe in me — and “me” only. In school students who failed to complete their homework assignments would ask if they could copy my answers. I did not mind at all. They got the answers from me. Some of them would approach other students and compare my answers with theirs. If they did not match, they would come to me and ask why my answers were different? I refused to defend my answers. My response was always, ” I don’t care what somebody else has. My answer is correct. You make up your own mind. You asked me, I did not ask you!”
A few of the students would decide to go with the competing answer. They were wrong. I did not feel sorry for them. They asked for answers, I gave them. It was up to them to decide who to believe.
I must have been pretty bad because one day my favorite R.O.T.C. (Reserve Officers Training Corp) instructor asked me if I had “bought batteries for my machine this week.” I asked what machine? Sgt. Kemp said, “The one that pats you on the back every morning and tells you how good you are.” My classmates got a good laugh on that one.
But God is patient. He waited until the time was right. God knew there was one thing I was afraid of. I had fear of being homeless. When I was a kid and a young adult, I would always look out the window of my home or apartment and comment, “I don’t know what I would do if I was homeless.” I was especially afraid of being homeless in the winter. This fear drove me to work. God used this fear to get my attention. He took away my home, job, career and for a brief moment, my health. Then I got involved in a mail-fraud scheme, so I lost my freedom.
God had things to teach me, but He needed my attention. So He allowed things to happen that did not hurt me. These things happened to save my soul. Almost immediately good things started happening. God added new people to my life. He added a church, the Lincoln Park Community United Methodist Church in Knoxville, Tenn., and its pastor John Gargis. He added a wonderful congregation who are my brothers and sisters in Christ. He added “special friends” for even more support. This group takes care of Winnie, my dog, and my affairs. They send letters, make small contributions to my commissary account, send books and send supportive emails. Pastor Gargis and “special friend and partner” Annette Spence set up this blog and encouraged me to write.
In prison support is so important, and the Lord makes sure I have no fear. I am in a safe environment after all the troubles from 2009 to April 2012. God is always adding things to my life now, and I have learned how to open up and let people see the real me. I no longer put my trust in myself. I now trust in the Lord. The Lord tore down the walls I built, like he did the Walls of Jericho. (Joshua 6) I believe Psalm 62:7-8: “On God rest my deliverance and my honor; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him, God is a refuge for us.”
God knows I am a work in progress. But I am no longer a rock. I am no longer an island.
Bernard Addison is serving 46 months for Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud. Questions or comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or to:
Bernard Addison/ 44863-074/ FPC-Atlanta; Dorm D/ P.O. Box 150160/ Atlanta, GA 30315