Today is November 8, 2023 and in just 22 days, I am set to embark on a journey that I never thought I’d take in my life—a 28-month sentence at the Hazelton federal prison camp. The path that led me here was littered with mistakes, but today, I choose to see it as an opportunity for growth and transformation. As I prepare for this new chapter, I find solace in the idea that even behind bars, I can make a difference in the lives of others.
One of the central themes I want to explore during my time away from my beloved wife of 45 years is the concept of creating meaning. I know how easily we can feel lost and purposeless when facing challenging situations. Yet I also know that we find meaning, or create purpose in the most unexpected places.
As a Chaldean Catholic, I’ve been conditioned to build a positive mindset, even in the midst of hopelessness. Today, I reflect on my 71-year journey through this blessing of life. As I reflect, I am comforted with memories of all the ways that adversity has served me as a catalyst for self-discovery. It forces us to reevaluate our choices, our values, and our purpose in life.
When I meet others in Hazleton, I know that they will share similar challenges. We will be living apart from the people we love and from the people who love us. Together with them, I intend to work toward creating meaning out of the struggles we endure together. I will show them the steps that have worked for me.
The first step to create meaning is to self-reflect. I plan to initiate discussions and group sessions where we can explore our pasts, our motivations, and our dreams. By sharing our stories, we can better understand the choices that brought us here and begin to pave a path towards a more meaningful future.
I have many examples to draw from to help me teach the importance of creating meaning, or value from nothing more than an idea. For example, I started building ambulances in 2002. Over time, my company grew to be one of the largest exporters for General Motors to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, and some parts of the USA. My company also sold ambulances to Iraq during the war. Through those efforts, my company worked with others to save human lives.
What could be more meaningful than saving human lives?
In many ways, I believe that by contributing to the culture of Hazelton, I will work toward saving lives–toward reducing the intergenerational cycles of recidivism. I look forward to learning from the people around me, and to sharing anything I’m able to contribute to the lives of others. In this way, we’ll work together to create meaning. After all, it will not be the first time that I’ve been in a culture that some construe as hopeless.
I have been to areas where the quality of life is very poor. I visited places where people had to walk miles to get to a doctor or a health center. Those communities are what inspired me to build Emergency Medical Services, a company that would allow doctors to travel to patients and treat them. In the USA, we are fortunate. We have the means to to call 911 if we need medical attention.
I considered ambulances a key factor to help people in third-world countries. People are people, and we always must work together to help.
In that same way, I will work with people around me at the Hazelton camp. We can collaborate in ways to grow, and through that process we will work to obliterate the poison of hopelessness. We live by a motto that has carried me through seven decades of life:
“It’s not how hard you get hit. It’s how many times and how hard you keep getting hit and moving forward. Life is very fragile, we must respect it.”
By working to create meaning, regardless of what challenges we face, we can make a difference in the world.