James is a quiet, well-mannered man in his fifties. He conveys an inspiring personal strength and I thank him for his time and his story.
Where did you grow up?
“I was born in Boise and lived in Idaho most of my life except for a six-month stay in Wyoming. I lived in a lot of foster homes. Mom read the Bible and prayed for us a lot. She was the thread that held us together and when she decided to follow my father and become a drunkard I went to the foster home. I was nine. That just led me right into institutions. I had no fatherly training. I didn’t know how to make decisions in important situations. I loved my family and I wanted to live with my family. A lot of [foster parents] didn’t care. They didn’t love me like a parent would. I liked them and I’d give each one a shot. If they didn’t care, I was out of there. I was suicidal. I’d go lay on the railroad tracks. They’d always see me and stop about a quarter of a mile away. At that point I was 14 and full of energy so after a while I’d get up and go play.”
“When my dad started drinking, he got these really dull light bulbs. When I’d do the dishes, I’d have to stand in this really dark corner and do them by feel. I didn’t want [my family] eating on dirty dishes. I know it’s because I read the Bible, and that’s not typical behavior for a six year old.”
“Blessed are the peacemakers. We all have a potential to turn violent. The more you pray, the more Jesus will become a part of your life. I call it engaging. I try to engage. When I was 17, the foster home tried to decide whether or not to let me go. I was pretty troubled even though I was ministering everyday. I ended up going to prison. We were drinking. I pled guilty because I was. I didn’t want to drag people out of their jobs for a jury. They sent me to prison for that. It was five years in St. Anthony but it felt like the same thing. I met a lot of brave and courageous young people there. I tried to teach the Bible while I was there but they wouldn’t let me do it before chores. Of course only two people wanted to stay after they had to do their chores. So that didn’t work out really good.”
“I work trimming trees and if I’m working and living at a place, I’ll pay for that first. But I never make enough money to pay the bills. I’ve learned many things about life and one of them is that you have to give. I give constantly. I may not have made the right decisions but maybe I can help other people do right. While I’m working I have to submit to God. I rake and I pray and I say God, this is really what I’m supposed to be doing right now. I try to help my coworkers as much as possible. It makes me a better worker and I know I’m doing my part.”