Who are you to squander such a gift?

There was a fantastic article in Esquire magazine a couple months ago about a man who was wrongfully imprisoned for thirty years before being cleared by DNA evidence and released in 2010. As our technological abilities have increased, this type of story has become increasingly common. The man’s name is Ray Towler, and while reading his story, I was struck by two things (other than general horror).

First, Ray’s attitude is incredible. I can’t imagine the urge to react with anger and bitterness towards a system, a society that stole three decades of his life. But reading his responses to the interviewer’s questions, he doesn’t come across that way. The only thing that comes across is gratefulness for the time he has left. The past is the past, don’t let it screw up the future as well.

Second, to some degree, too many of us share his fate. We aren’t spending our lives behind bars, but we’re still no more free. Or at least we’re not living like we are. We stumble around in a daze, devoid of purpose or meaning.

Ray Towler spent thirty years of his life behind bars, time that is forever lost. I wouldn’t wish Ray’s fate on anyone, but maybe part of the reason he appears so grateful is that he is grateful, grateful for a freedom that most of us take completely for granted.

Ray didn’t have a choice in what happened to him, but most of us do. Don’t wake up in fifty years, old and full of regrets for the life you spent behind bars. You only get one life; who are you to squander such a gift?