A repost from the Albany Times-Union blog by David Kaczynski, Director, New Yorkers For Alternatives to the Death Penality

“Nobody wants a life like mine.” I’ve occasionally said those words in sorrow and self-pity – particularly during the period between October 1995 and February 1998 when I lived through one crisis after another. After the burdens of that time were lifted, I resolved not to sweat the small stuff anymore. I had gained perspective on what really matters in life.

For 60 years, I’ve lived a privileged existence. I had two loving parents who provided for my care and education. I’ve enjoyed mental and physical health. I was sent to great schools where I formed deep and lasting friendships and encountered teachers who broadened my intellectual horizons. I took advantage of my American birthright to experiment with varying lifestyles in Montana, Iowa and Texas. Eventually, I married my soulmate: the woman I’d loved ever since high school.  Even after the Unabomber tragedy – in fact, because of it – I’ve had the opportunity to earn my living in ways that are healing and meaningful. This may not be the life I’d choose if I’d been able to plan it all in advance. I don’t imagine there are any young people dreaming about the future and thinking, “Gee, I want a life just like David Kaczynski’s.” But you better believe that I spend a lot of time marveling at my good fortune and counting my blessings.

I Don’t Wish Nobody to Have a Life Like Mine is the name of a new book written by David Chura (Beacon Press). The title is lifted from a comment by a young man incarcerated in one of New York’s secure facilities for juvenile offenders where the author taught GED courses for many years. In the context of the book, the comment sounds less self-pitying than factual – even altruistic in its hope that others not begin life with a stacked deck that might include being raised without hope or consistency by an unstable, drug-addicted single mother. If you are looking for life perspective, then this is one book you ought to read. If you are searching for clues to understand where civilization has gone astray, a trip behind these bars might be the place to begin. If you want to restore your faith in humanity, you will appreciate the way David Chura illuminates hope, connection and dignity enduring in the most unlikely of places.

The author finds the best in human beings by watching them closely, patiently and without judgment. In reading along, we realize that the guards are doing time along with the youthful inmates. In its many twists and turns, the book discovers in the prison labyrinth a metaphor of the confinements and refuges of the human spirit. In the face of every person he so carefully depicts, the author shows us a mirror.

Read this book. I imagine it will be an experience you’ll never forget.

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