Tag: politics

Expect the Worse & The Worst You Shall Receive

My father died when I was a freshman in high school. Apart from the grief my family and I still bear from time to time, the things that he said have taken on a near-sacred aurora. I think a lot of families elevate things their loved ones say or did as a means of holding onto them; I suppose that’s altogether another reason to watch what we say and do.

As it was, my father had a lot of things to say in his 51 years. The other night I remembered something he said to me one day when I was grousing about something or someone. He said if I always expect the worst from someone, chances are good they will not disappoint me; in other words, a person has a tendency to live up to the expectations that we place on them. I thought about that the other night as I listened to Judge Jim Goodwin talk about the Sullivan County Felony Recovery Court, which is a court that works to “achieve a reduction in recidivism and substance abuse among nonviolent, substance abusing, adult felony offenders” (Goodwin).

I have to be straight up honest, I more often than not expect the worst or very little from the sort of people that Judge Goodwin’s Recovery Court seeks to help. Before you judge me, ask yourself if you haven’t done the same thing. If you’ve ever worked with addicts – you know that they can be the most manipulative, deceptive people on the planet. However, it is no secret that we have an opioid issue in this region. In other words, we have a lot of people here who go out of their way to get the drugs that they crave. In fact, I was told recently that an overwhelming majority of the people incarcerated in Sullivan County can be linked to drugs of one kind or another. It is safe to say that the opioid issue – drugs in general – are a direct contributor to overcrowding in our jails and there are those who suggest that we (that is Sullivan County taxpayers) need to invest around $50 million in order to build and or improve the jail.

As someone who prefers to see tax dollars go toward education and job creation, as someone who thinks that the answer to the drug problem is more than incarceration, I’m all ears when it comes to alternative ideas and suggestions. So, when Judge Goodwin began to talk about the Felony Recovery Court, I paid close attention.

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The court itself works with people that most people have written off. They are repeat, non-violent, offenders who have a history of drug abuse. They are felons who are looking at doing a lot of time behind bars – which as you know costs the taxpayer. The Recovery Court is the last stop for these folks. The court – working with experts – hopes to increase the “likelihood for successful rehabilitation through early, continuous, and intense judicially supervised treatment, mandatory periodic drug testing, and the use of appropriate sanctions…” (Goodwin). The program started here in April 2015 (it’s being used in other places as well) and, so far, the results have been good. Judge Goodwin reports that “75% of Drug Court graduates remain arrest-free at least 2 years after leaving the program.”

Granted, the program isn’t perfect, and it takes time. People with serious addictions aren’t cured overnight. But the program does seem to reduce crime, helps our community, reduces the number of offenders being incarcerated, and it saves taxpayer money – which can be better spent in other places. But more importantly, it impacts the lives of people that are expected to fail – to blow it – to spend a great portion of their lives behind bars. Like my dad said, if we expect the worst out of people we will probably not be disappointed. I think Judge Goodwin is showing the folks of Sullivan County that maybe – just maybe – if we expect something good from people – they just might step up and meet our expectations.

 

*Remember – I’m running for Sullivan County Commissioner (District 2). Come out and vote in the Primary on May 1, 2018, and the General Election on August 2nd, 2018. If you aren’t a registered voter – then get registered!

I’m Mark A. Hutton and I approve this message. Paid for by Mark A. Hutton.

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Words Matter, Especially a President’s

This article was published on Sunday, January 21, 2018, by the Bristol Herald Courier

The late Neil Postman, the author of “Amusing Ourselves to Death,” once pointed out that BHC Logo“How we talk is how we think.” Of course, that idea wasn’t original with Postman. Jesus himself pointed this out when he said, “What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart.”

In essence, words matter because they reveal things about us as human beings.

According to the Bristol Herald Courier and other news outlets, people all over the country are outraged. It is unconscionable, they declare, that a president of the United States should ever publically refer to some African countries – or any country – as “sh*thole” countries.

In fact, a number of people are bristling that he would use such inappropriate language because it is not only unbecoming and unpresidential, it is offensive and it is sure to alienate the people of those countries.

Then there are those who defend Trump, even hail him as a genius. They see nothing wrong what with Trump said and even go so far as to applaud his transparency. They like Trump’s tough language and stance when it comes to immigration and his responses to other world leaders; it is, according to some, the sort of John Wayne-ish rhetoric that America has been missing for a long time; it will put us on the road to becoming great again.

Trump’s comments reveal something about him not just as a president but as a person as well.

For one thing, his comments show a lack of understanding regarding the office of president; while he holds the office, it isn’t just his office. Trump is there to represent all Americans, and not simply the ones he likes or agrees with.

I suppose that has been one of the toughest transitions for him. After all, for decades his entire world has revolved around his interests; but as president of the United States, he can no longer simply think of his aims, his goals, his ideas. He needs to weigh what he says against that call and obligation to represent the United States and not simply himself.

Like it or not, he represents all of us and what he says carries a lot of weight. I suppose that’s why a lot of people are upset because the things he has said of late does not represent them. Imagine if someone who is supposed to represent your interests was saying things that you completely disagreed with but they kept saying it with no regard to you at all.

But that’s not the only issue here, or even perhaps the most important one. Words matter because they reveal something about us as human beings; the things we say often tell more about what is truly in our hearts than the actions that we take.

A lot of what President Trump has said over the past year was in step with the things he did as a reality TV star. Many of us simply took it in stride, considering it as some bluster. But this latest comment reveals more about what is going on inside his heart and mind than anything else he’s said so far.

What the president of the United States has to say about poor and impoverished nations matters. For decades, this country has been known for its humanitarian efforts – which frankly goes in stride with something from the book of Proverbs: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

But that isn’t what Trump seemed to be saying the other day when he cast entire countries and people into the sewer.

What does that sort of comment reveal about what he truly believes about these people? Does he really think that those nations are “sh*thole countries” or was he just blustering? What are we to think when someone with such power says something so horrible about people who have been the victims of tyranny and injustice for decades? Does it represent us well? What could he have been thinking? Who was he representing in that moment?

There are a lot of people in this region who support President Trump. There are others who are resigned to the fact that he is our president and others who loathe him. No matter your position, his comment reveals something about him as a person that is disturbing. It is something we need to bear in mind because his words tell us something about the man himself.

 

This article was published on Sunday, January 21, 2018, by the Bristol Herald Courier

Being and Calling

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This week all three of my sons, separate from one another, have told me what they want to do with their lives. Our oldest announced that he’d like to be a director – and make great movies. Our twelve-year-old said he wants to be a doctor – a surgeon perhaps. Our youngest said, “Would you let me be one of those guys who stands on a stage and tells jokes. I think I’d like to do that.”

What’s amazing to me about these conversations is how clearly I could see each one of my sons doing those jobs. Those callings fit them. In a way it is who they are. Yes, I know, I’ve heard it too, “we are not defined by what we do – we are more than our vocations.” I’m not so sure about that. I’m not so sure that there isn’t a very close connection to being and calling. I could be wrong but…

Knowing my sons the way I do, I believe there are vocations they are better suited for than others. I also believe that not helping them to understand who they are, how they are hard-wired, and telling them they can do anything is not all that helpful to them in the long run.

In fact, the Psalmist wrote, “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! (Psalm 127:4-5 ESV).” Imagine this warrior, he knows his arrows well. He knows the warp and woof of each one. He knows how the arrow will be impacted by wind and perhaps rain. He knows the arrows well enough to know how to help it hit the target. Oh, and the target is defined.

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In other words, know your child. Study them. Understand how God made them and help them to see how God made them. Give them a vision for the target that God has laid out for them and help them to move toward it.  Telling our arrows they can fly in a lot of different directions, any direction they want, and expecting them to hit a target is perhaps an exercise in futility.

I believe that who my sons are (being), how God has put them together, gives shape to their vocation (calling). How God made them will give shape to how God intends to use them, His target so to speak. I think that shaping continues their entire lives. However, when I fail to take into account how God put them together and fail to give them a vision for God’s target for their lives, I am setting them up for frustration.

I know a number of parents who want to make sure that they give their child every opportunity and experiences. It is as if the opportunities and experiences will somehow give shape to their children – and it does – but not always in the way that we had hoped. In other words, we send kids to science camps, sports camps, literary camp, (to see if they are going to be a scientist, athlete, or writer or all three). Sometimes it is just for fun but most of the time it is because we believe they can do anything they want to or put their minds to and we just need to give them opportunity and experience to figure it out.

Fortunately, kids sometimes know themselves better than parents do (and it may be frustrating to them to hear us say ‘you are awesome and can do anything you want’ they know that isn’t true for them – it wasn’t true when our parents said it either). What’s more is that some parents have forgotten opportunity and experience are not all that makes a person a person. We work extra hard to give those opportunities and experiences for our kids in hope. All we have to do, really, is spend the time to get to know who they are – really. How they are hard-wired plays a part. In other words, being and calling go hand in hand.

14710915-film-industry-directors-chair-with-film-strip-and-movie-clappersurgeons-at-workWho knows if one day Sherry and I will one day watch a major motion picture that our son directed, or ask our son for medical advice, or laugh in a crowd at the jokes of our youngest (I’ve given him a lot of material to work with). But, at least at this point, I can see that what they say they want to do is consistent with who they are.

Somehow in the midst of all the mistakes and messes I make of being a dad, God is still directing the being and calling of our sons. My prayer is that I don’t muddle things up too much and I am able to help point these young men toward THE target for their lives. Of course, THE target is that they advance God’s purposes in the world (as agents of shalom) for God’s glory. My job as dad is to help them understand who they are and to give them a vision for THE target so that no matter the specific calling they are finding their purposes wrapped up in God’s. I believe that is how these young men will flourish and those around them will flourish as well.

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