By Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller
International Parenting Commitment Day - March 20
Parent of the Month
Love Will Always Bring Us Home
By D. Trinidad Hunt
Lovell Harris was raised in St. Louis, Missouri, in the St. Louis Projects – one square mile of high-rise tenements housing 10,000 people. Lovell had two models: his mom and grandmother, both of whom worked overtime to support Lovell, his four brothers, and his dad, who was an abusive alcoholic.
During his early years, Lovell followed in his footsteps of his father. By the age of 18, he was drinking, and by 27 he was arrested for pushing drugs. In 1973, Lovell was incarcerated. The day he went to prison he was so sick from alcohol abuse that he was urinating blood.
While he was in prison, Lovell began to dry out. He started visiting the prison library and read his first book, Treasure Island, from cover to cover.
At the same time, Lovell was beginning to have flashbacks. Without alcohol and drugs to dull his senses, memories of his youth began to surface. He saw his grandmother’s face and her beautiful, wrinkled old hands as she knelt before him to wrap his feet in rags to protect them from the bitter winter cold. Collected from the garbage dumps, these rags were washed and hung out to dry, then saved as a replacement for socks for her five grandsons who had to walk to school every day.
He saw his mother’s face as she watched him walk out into the night after stealing money from her purse to buy drugs. He felt her heartbreak, and he heard her words echoing in his ears. “Lovell, you’re a special boy. Someday you’re going to be all right, son. Someday you’re going to make your mother proud.”
About seven months passed behind those prison walls, and Lovell continued to think of his mother and of her belief in him. Then one day a rumor spread; there was going to be a rumble. The men were planning a breakout.
On the day of the jailbreak, Lovell stayed in his cell. When his best friend came to get him, he was sitting on his bunk staring straight ahead at the wall.
“Come on, Lovell,” his friend yelled. “This is it!”
“I’m not going, man.” Lovell sat frozen in position, his fingers dug into the mattress, his eyes focused straight ahead.
“Come on, Lovell!” His friend screamed.
“No, man. I’m not going.”
“Don’t be a wimp, Lovell,” his prison mate shouted a him. “Come on!”
“I said I’m not going, man,” Lovell repeated, still staring straight ahead.
The riot that day turned out to be the worst in the history of the St. Louis, Missouri, Penitentiary. It went on for hours and dozens of men were hurt, but Lovell did not participate in any of it. It was the first time in ten years that Lovell said no. Over the years he had said yes to alcohol and yes to taking and selling drugs. This was the first time he’d stood his ground and just said no.
Because of that singular stand, Lovell was called before the parole board earlier than expected. He received his parole for good behavior after nine months of incarceration.
Lovell stayed clean after that. He joined the United States Navy and slowly began to build a healthy record of service to our nation. He had a lot of things to work through – much anger, hurt and pain had to be released – but over the years he steadily improved. Eventually he became a drug and alcohol abuse counselor for the Navy and was able to use his past experience to help others.
In 1987, some 15 years after he joined the Navy, Lovell was named Sailor of the Year. In 1989, he received the same award, the only person in the Navy to be given the award twice. In 1990, he received the Medal of Honor in Washington for being the number one alcohol and drug abuse counselor in the United States Navy. Lovell went on to join the reserves, and in 1993 he received the Sailor of the Year award for the Navy Reserves in the state of Hawaii.
Lovell has become all that his mother ever said he would be. He told me later that it was the images of his mother’s face and the wrinkled old hands of his grandmother that kept him steady on that fateful day in prison. It was also his mother’s love and her belief in him that carried him through those challenging first years outside prison walls. “Love is a saving grace,” he said, “and the love of my mother finally brought me home.”
Lovell Harris is one of my dearest friends. Hearing his story reminded me of my own mother and of how her belief in me carried me through so many youthful storms until I, too, was able to ride the sea of life on my own. I share Lovell’s story to remind all the mothers of the world of the difference their unconditional love makes in the lives of their children.
Committed Parent of the Month Nominations
Please send nominations for Committed Parent of the Month to firstname.lastname@example.org. Each month a new parent will be selected who has demonstrated an active commitment to his or her family. The winner will be displayed on the www.10commitments.net website and will be moved to the Committed Parent of the Month archives the following month.