By Chad Eric Hollamon
While incarcerated in the federal prison system I had the honor of meeting Mark Crawford. They say, 'when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.' That student was me and the teacher would be Mayor Mark, as he is referred to as.
I firmly believe that God puts others in our lives for a purpose and not by accident. They are put there to learn from, sometimes to guide us and to force us to see life with a fresh perspective. My life without a doubt would have had a different outcome if it wasn't for Mayor Mark. I might have returned to society continuing on with a criminal lifestyle or perhaps been a miserable being. Instead, I'm writing this in the comforts of a kitchen, grateful for each day, willing to help others and content with my lot in life.
Mark didn't start preaching the Bible to me, even though he is a theologian of sorts. No folks, Mark ingrained in me the small things like the beauty of my surroundings, no matter if there were prison walls around us. By example he pounded in me the importance of family and how they were priority number one. After all, how can one be a good man without their family being above all else? Mark taught me the importance of respecting females. As men we must honor them each and every day.
Not only am I a better person because of Mark. There are countless others in the system that have been impacted by Mayor Mark. Heck, I even heard of him before he arrived at my prison in Texas. Reputations follow you and Mark has one in the highest regard. And I must admit, you felt his presence when he was anywhere near you. Making someone feel as if they are the only person around cannot be taught. I could only sit back and watch how others reacted to him.
Mark's sense of humor is like no other. He might be wry, sarcastic and sometimes critical but he kept me laughing. Not only that, the man gave lessons through humor. Who does that? Who can make you laugh while trying to teach you something about yourself? I'd sit my bunk at night replaying and analyzing what Mark said or commented on and apply them to my life
Okay, I've probably praised him too much to where he would be embarrassed. So, I will bring him down a notch. The man reads too much, spends too much time in the art room, a grouch when he is thinking, drinks too much coffee and has been known to smoke a smuggled in handmade rolled up cigarette from time to time. He even had me Puffing on them when he had them. The audacity of that man. A breaker of prison rules to the ninth degree. Yes, that is a bit of my own Mark Crawford humor.
I don't miss prison but I miss the hell out of Mark. You ever heard of inmates escaping prison? Well, I wish I could sneak back in for a few days to see Mark. I'd love to walk the yard, where he'd point out things I would not have noticed. I'd love to eat in the prison dining hall. He'd make slop they made into a gourmet meal while making me feel guilty if I didn't eat all that was on my plate. I owe a lifetime of gratitude to that man. He will never, ever realize how he assisted in shaping and forming my life. My relationship with others and myself is at all time highs. Nothing is ever bad as it seems. That is one lesson I imparted from Mark. Sure, we have bad days but just make sure your good days outnumber them. Each day brings new meaning. Could be by being with yourself or in the company of others. How does a man doing life in prison find beauty where the common person doesn't? It's a mystery to me and sometime a bit of mystery is good for our soul. Sometimes I wonder if Mark was even real or not. Embarrassingly, I wonder if I conjured his existence. My life was transformed because of Mark and can never thank him enough. If the world had more of the likes of him we'd all be better off.
And Mark, if you read this, I'm still better looking than you and have better hair.
Chad Eric Hollamon