The Power of Gratitude in Prison
Every day we make a choice. We choose how we will live and whom we will serve. Anger or bitterness or envy can ruin our day, or we can choose to live in gratitude—even if we’re going to prison.
I am counting the weeks until the time that I’ll be separated from my family. Yet each day, I am comforted by the love of my wife, my daughters, and my grandchildren. They fill me with joy. Thanks to those beautiful souls, I have the strength to face the crisis ahead with my dignity intact, and with confidence that the time I spend in prison will be one of reflection, introspection, and immense productivity. For that, I can be grateful.
Gratitude is a powerful emotion that can have a profound impact on our lives, even in the most difficult of circumstances. While incarcerated, I anticipate that gratitude will be a lifeline, helping me to cope with stress, anxiety, and the threat of depression. With gratitude, I am confident that a person can maintain a positive outlook on life, even when things are tough.
Over the decades that have passed, I’ve gone through many stages, with many peaks and valleys. I’ve lost siblings to early death, I’ve gone bankrupt, and I’ve had to overcome more than one financial crisis. One those challenges come, and people ask “What will we do?” I have one answer:
- I will give thanks to God and we will push forward!
This mindset guides me now. I pledged to write daily as I anticipate my surrender to the federal prison camp in Hazleton. I don’t know what I’ll encounter when I arrive. Through research, I’ve learned more about life inside the Bureau of Prisons. I’ve learned that some people struggle with mental-health challenges and despondency, while others find ways to recalibrate and thrive. I intend to adjust in ways that will reflect my commitment to living with gratitude; I will find ways to give to the community rather than allow myself to sink into feelings of loss, of all that I’m missing, or the pain that I’ve caused to others by putting myself in this predicament.
Although I’m going through enormous challenges now, I can reflect on some of the brighter times in my life–experiences that I cherish in times of struggle. For example, I had the privilege of building a friendship with the former governor of Michigan, John Engler. We collaborated on several of his economic development and international trade committees. I also got to know him personally.
Governor Engler was knowledgeable about local issues but didn’t have much knowledge about international affairs. We would sometimes have lunch so that he could hear about my international trips to Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Kuwait, and other countries. He would tell me that I should run for governor.
He was also very interested in and supportive of my vision to buy the Silverdome and convert it into a world trade center. He desperately wanted me to develop it for the state, as it would have generated $300 million in revenue and created over 5,000 jobs. I was a staunch supporter of John’s throughout his eight years as governor.
Governor John Engler was a thinker and a very quiet man. He loved his family and enjoyed good food, especially healthy meals and chocolates. John was one of the few great governors our state has had in over 20 years.
Times have changed for our state of Michigan, and for me. Yet instead of dwelling on the difficulties, I focus on gratitude.
Others can build strength with this virtue, too.