By Miguel Angel Paredes
To read Miguel's previous entry, click here
To read Miguel's previous entry, click here
This is a subject I have been postponing for a long time. Many times I have been motivated and encouraged to write something to help our youth, using my experiences I have lived in this world, to try and help our youth not to end up in the situation I find myself in or even getting lost to the ever-growing world of gangs and crime. I did have much to say, as having analyzed my whole life through my own eyes as a youth and into manhood, I can see and pin-point all the things I, from my end, could see could have been done different. Yet, as I began to start writing more in depth, formulating something as a guide to parents for troubled youth, I was unable to move forward as I had not been able to live the role of a parent that much, and my own son was in dire need of the very guidance I was willing to give to others, yet was unable to provide for my own son, I wanted to believe that by reaching other youths as I would my own son, my own son would run into someone who could give him that love and guidance. Yet in the back of my mind existed a plain truth: that if I could not apply it with my own son and see it work, the evidence was plain that it was useless, and it would be in vain - something that seemed good, sounded good and maybe received a lot of applause, and yet I would know it was no more than a hollowed-out appearance, so I had to leave it alone, regardless of how sincere and willing I was to try to help parents with their kids whom did not respond to the ways most people do to discipline and guidance from adult figures/parents in their lives.
I am the youngest of 20 children - all from the same parents. Seven, I never knew as they passed away before I was born. All my brothers live a life that is very different to mine. You can say I was the Black Sheep of the family. My parents were very old fashioned, the kind that instruct you and discipline you to live a law-abiding decent life: You marry and stay married for the rest of your lives to that very same person. I was raised with the same strict rules my brothers were raised with and punished for my wrong-doing and rebellion, yet I became everything they stood contrary to. Now my life is very different, and now I even try to help my own brothers to love each other and grow closer to each other, to heal their own emotional wounds and try to be of support in what I am able to. Many people have now witnessed what I have become by the grace of God, whom I drew near to in order to find the guidance I needed and have been blessed with all I now have in my life and what I have become. Yet I still lacked the experience of being in the parents´/ guardians shoes. While dwelling in the things I needed to be able to serve God´s calling, I found a requirement in the letter of 1 Timothy, which pretty much says I must be able to manage my own household before being able to manage God´s, stating that if I couldn´t manage my own household, how could I care for God´s church. This opened the door to look at everyone, not only the persons I grew up with or myself, but to look everywhere, and find understanding. I once met a young man whose father was a pastor. Yet he was here on Death Row, and for that reason his congregation prevented him from pastoring. I thought it was unfair as his son was not a young man, but a grown man, and therefore he couldn´t be held accountable for his actions or beliefs. Every time I met people, I looked at how they were raised, and their background, and even with the people from the outside, I wanted to know more and more, especially those raised by fellow Christians. Here on death row I came across more men whose parents were ministers, and some more pastors, and it puzzled me how one is able to move/touch and guide a whole congregation but their children, who became men ended up here. So I saw it was far more common than I previously realized. It saddened me to hear the harsh punishments they were given as discipline, some even having the scars to show. I also heard from someone dear to me the way a relative was disciplined by his minister father. Honestly, at first I was mad and disappointed with all that, especially since it did not bare the intended results, but rather separated and ripped the bond between father and son. I sought more insight and was told it is sad, and at times it is said “Hijo de Pastor lo Peor/Son of Pastor is the Worst”. It worried me that one day my son would fit that branding, and I was told a pastor has it very difficult as he has to answer to his congregation, and the children are more exposed. I began to see the desperation that drove the corporal punishment or disciplinary methods, and even how we forget that who we serve is our Lord and are accountable to him in first place. I don´t believe in forced discipline because regardless of the amount of force or discipline tried on me I still ended up here and didn´t too much care about its burdens or the damage they could inflict upon me. I also know though, that if we allow a child to do as he pleases, and especially in this world now a days – with its many challenges and temptations, we allow them to walk to their very deaths: emotional or physical deaths.
Lately I have been given the opportunity to be a father figure to my son, more hands on, than the yearly or so visits we once had. Since he was a child, I have explained to him the raw realities of the criminal life and all the reasons why not to do the bad things I once did, and many more reasons why he should do the good fruitful things that will bring him love and happiness for him and his loved ones. I have apologized to him about not being there for him as he wished, as he yearns and for all the pain he feels for me. Yet the bad reports seemed to come around more often than anything else. I have tried for my family to be there for him. They finally allowed him a place to stay and set rules he must go by, yet it wasn´t long before I got some more reports about him, and this time very serious ones, to a degree I totally feel strongly against. I was very disappointed, anger, hurt, ashamed, and desperate. I wanted him to answer for his actions, and it all made sense from what was said, and it hurt me that he was wasting his life and all the opportunities that only came by after much struggle. I wanted to unleash myself in anger, a way that I have only twice gotten after him. In these visits I have tried to tell him more things so he could use them in the future as I didn´t know if I would see him again. When I visited with him some weeks ago I confronted him and felt I needed to open up all I felt and ripped my own heart so he could feel me. He had told me he no longer felt emotions. It scared me and worried me, as I remember when I felt that way. I knew something HAD to be done. But what? My family members had their firm opinions and worries as well, and solutions that had obviously not been working on my son or myself, and I myself as a parent was falling into the line of thinking, yet I needed to be willing and honest. What was left? To rip my heart and reveal everything to him, even the things I had been trying to protect him from knowing. In this visit my heart ripped and I said all I had to say. My son answered and I investigated with my relatives on the spot, neither having time to realize why I was asking the questions. All this time our eyes met and pierced into our very souls. There was a moment where I could only see his eyes, eyebrows and around his eyes in detail. All the people in the visitation room blurred out. It was like looking into a mirror, seeing my own eyes. The tears flowed, the pain showed, the love was felt, and it was as if we shed the same tears with the same eyes. I connected so much deeper and felt my son in a very magical way. I told him the hardest truths of his life, of my life and circumstances. I felt his pain and he felt mine. We have shed tears on previous occasions when he was smaller and he learned I was on death row, this time knowing an execution date hangs over me, knowing that I would do anything for his well-being, even risking my biggest legal opportunity. He saw his hero broken by pain, whom he thought was an iron man, broken in sorrow, unable to keep an unbroken rhythm of speech, regardless of the many people around us. This could be seen as something magical between father and son, to see another in this form of connection, but this is EMPATHY. Without empathy we are not acting out of love, nor following love´s actions. We follow everything else except love when there is no empathy. This is what a computer or robot can never achieve – humanity´s biggest gift – “LOVE”. Yet without empathy there is no possible way for love. This visit in particular was full of it, and my son, for the first time in like six years, responded to me, “I love you”, when I told him I love him, as we were saying our good-byes for the time being, until the next visit. My son left here able to know he is loved and that he does feel. His heart was ripped open. Now he can cleanse all the wounds that closed and petrified in so many years of no one tending to his emotional wounds, realizing he is not a robot, but a tender being who is hypersensitive and has emotional needs to grow a healthy life. I learned that we make mistakes of judgment and are driven out of fear and desperation, more than love when we fail to connect with our loved one. Once I analyzed the facts of the accusations I saw it was more evident that it was an attempt to put my son in danger, by people who did not even mention the required legal channels for such request of information or accusations. Once I heard my son´s words and they matched my own conclusions after analyzing the facts, I was very proud of how my son handled himself. I say all of this so everyone will not be so quick to judge when the worry, fear and anger is bottled up without concerns for our loved one´s well-being. Society will judge our loved ones when they make a mistake and they will house them in prisons or programs to punish their actions. Some places are materially far better than the very housing my son or I have lived in, at previous times, and that many people are able to afford. Yet it is not empathy that you find in these places. So the key word here is EMPATHY. Are we connecting with our children or our troubled youth? If not, the answer is not merely applying it on our loved one, but in us who are more experienced and are the paternal figure to find the reason of why we are not connecting. Finding that answer will open the door to more than likely help and guide and heal our loved one. This is why if I could not handle my own house, much less God´s church, because I would be unable to connect with my very blood who is flesh of my flesh, letting me know that if I am not able to do this, I would only be able to “PLEASE” a congregation, or people, and appear to be loving, but without loving, therefore falling out of the love I am called to live by, as the story goes of the shepherd who leaves the 99 sheep to go look for the lost one. It would be a lot easier to remain in the safety and comfort of the 99 ones who remained in safety proximity and didn´t get out of sight, than to leave those and go look for the lost one. God knowing where it is, or in what danger, or the very danger in trying to find and bring back to the fold and harmony with the rest. These lost sheep, these black sheep are our troubled youth and loved ones who do not respond to the methods the majority respond to. It is our test of love if we go search and bring them to our loving fold, or we take a merchant´s stand in which one lost is a better option than risking leaving the 99 and losing them to a thief or what not, from the many fears that can overtake us. If we manage to have empathy with the least of our brethren, much more with the ones that have more surplus than needs, we will sincerely be in tune with love. Before anything we must look deep into ourselves and see if we feel and have that EMPATHY, and if we have put that love to practice, or are merely reacting out of fear, anger, concern and judgment. It is said perfect love casts out fear. These things we must inspect in ourselves before we inspect the next person, especially those dearer to us, and especially if we follow Christ´s path. Otherwise our efforts will be in vain.
This is a truth that is not only for Christians but that anyone willing to be sincere and open can see. It is a very true revelation when it comes to loving and helping me to loving and helping our fellow beings and loved ones.
Thank you for your time in reading this. Mikey, I love you a lot and thank you for helping me to grow in this aspect of being your father. Blessings to all.
Miguel Angel Paredes
October 3, 2014
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Miguel Angel Paredes 999400
3872 FM 350 South
Livingston, TX 77351