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                                                                                                                                                                      By Samuel K. Byrd


       You know the saying - if you don’t have a plan, you become part of someone else’s? Well, after spending six months in jail for an accident, I wish I would’ve taken those words to heart.

While being here I see and understand that while more white guys get arrested, more Black guys make up the population of prisons. According to the 2008 Almanac, that just so happens to be floating around the dorm, 10,437,620 arrests were made in the U.S. in 2006.Of these, 7,270,214 were white, but the ratio of Blacks to white in prison was 3 to 1. The major crimes committed by both include larceny, drugs and assault, however more whites are arrested for crimes involving drinking, i.e. DUI and public drunkenness.

       So why are prisons so over populated with Blacks and not at least equally populated by both?  While listening to my fellow inmates discuss their cause and other life stories - most involved doing time in jail, I noticed that many of them got caught in the act of committing a crime. In the case of the white guys, they were either turned in or apprehended before or well after the crime was committed therefore resulting in a lower bond charge and sentence.

       When you think about some of the more horrific crimes and disasters where the major players have been white, they took the time to plan their crimes. Three such people that come to mind are Timothy McVey, responsible for the 1995 bombing in Oklahoma City, Kenneth Lay, former CEO of ENRON and Captain Lisa Novak, a NASA flight crew member and jilted lover. Those three, among others, had to sit and plan, plan, plan even if in the end they got caught,  were prosecuted, lost their jobs, disgraced, and one -put to death by the state, for their so-called well thought out plan.

So you ask, if these are examples of well thought out plans, what happens when you fail to plan?  Well, what you end up with is 1,833 plus people dead in Louisiana when many Blacks, in the wake of Katrina, either refused to leave, decided too late to leave, or simply never considered the possibility that they would ever have to leave.  So they had no plan to leave and no plan for staying. This is not to say that Blacks are the only ones that fail to properly plan. Remember if you will, April 4th, 1912, when 1,503 people died onboard the Titanic. The year 2010 will always be remembered for among other things, for one of the worst oil spills in our lifetime thanks to the wonderful people at BP.

What I’ve noticed while here in jail and even when I wasn’t, is that most people are only concerned about “what now” rather than “what next”. In jail, the veterans only talk about what prison camps are the best and when –not if- they go back, which one they would want to go to.  There is very little talk of what next, meaning life after prison. Only talk of what now or of what got them here in the first place.

Now in jail, more people give their lives to the Lord than those at a T.D. Jakes event, especially just before going to court. The way I see, the Lord is who you ask to keep you out of trouble, not to get you out of it when you yourself failed to plan and became part of someone else’s. Many of the guys here, present company included, are locked up because of others’ plans-not our own. Even in my outside life, I have known people, successful or not, that aren’t where they want to be. They have gotten into the habit of planning for “what now”. For a lot of people, the “what next” is too difficult. The “what next” takes discipline, commitment, and faith.  

Disciplined enough to stay at a low paying job, while going to night school to get your B.A. Degree, or saving for the down payment on your first home. Committed to dealing with an addiction. Enough Faith when facing the declining health of an aging loved one.

Between the Ten Commandments and the Seven Deadly Sins, I don’t think being selfish will be frowned upon too greatly. When I say being selfish, I’m talking about taking time out for you. Time to make sure, you’re on track with what you want and where you want to be in life, whether it’s two weeks or two years from now.

Many of us get sidetracked by other things that are not ever our immediate concern. People get caught up with being a part of an organization, club or even church and often forget about their original course. To be honest, at times, we all love the attention and the feel of self-worth that comes with being part of any successful association. This can be seen over and over in most relationships, business or personal. When things are new, fresh and profitable, everyone is on board. But, when things start to go bad, people abandon ship. The “what now” is easily answered but if the “what next” is never addressed, problems will eventually arise. One person wants one thing, and one wants another.

The “what now” should be left in the hands of the Lord. If you’re comfortable so far, simply thank the Lord and try to honor Him to the fullest. If you’re in a bad situation, tell Him that you now understand the lesson that you’re being taught and you have faith that He will see you through.

The “what next” is up to you to decide. You must make the commitment, show the discipline, and have the faith to see your goals realized. Its okay to listen to your friends or co-workers problems, but to help carry their load, while admirable, is often unnecessary and almost never fully returned.

We have to remember that things happen. It rains on the just and the unjust alike, you just have to remember to carry an umbrella next time. We all get caught in an afternoon shower from time to time, but with all of our state of the art weather warning systems, only a fool would get caught in a monsoon.

Failure to plan is planning to fail. Most of us are afraid of change or to try new things, but you’ll never know how that new chicken sandwich tastes until you try it. The guy that ran the Boston marathon for five years straight but never placed in the top 50 still had a better experience than the guy who watched it on TV for the last ten years. Most of us will never reach or even attempt to reach our full potential because we don’t try, don’t plan and never wonder -- What Next?


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