Steven Nary has been in a California prison every single day of his life since March 1996. The reason why astonishes.
As an inebriated 18-year-old sailor on leave in San Francisco, Nary was lured from a co-ed dance club to the apartment of the Argentina-born Juan Pifarre under false pretenses. When the coked-up Pifarre tried to rape Nary, the sailor fought back and killed him unintentionally.
The fact that Pifarre had at least two prior arrests on sexual charges, one for assault, carried less weight with San Francisco prosecutors than that he was both gay and a noisy Hispanic activist. Nary never had a chance.
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In June 2009, despite his impeccable prison record, authorities denied Nary parole for at least five more years. Many of us would have broken by now. Steven gives thanks. Other than an occasional punctuation change, the following letter from Steven is unedited.
A thankful heart
Recently, I received a warm greeting from a wonderful lady named Sister Mary Sean. Our talk lasted almost an hour. No matter how I tried to deflect the conversation off of myself, she returned it to what I am doing with my life and how my faith is coming along.
Her reminder of close friends on another yard saying hello and that they would love to have me back, ignites a fire in my heart and waters my eyes with tears.
Over and over, she emphasizes that she sees God's Providence in my life and my gratitude. Her words and simple questions penetrate my soul, for I have so much to be thankful for. She says I should put it into words, but I haven't the slightest idea where to start.
Sure, my childhood dreams didn't pan out, my career in the Navy never really started, and receiving a life sentence at the age of 18 should have left me bitter and angry.
Add to this the emotions associated with my crime, the guilt and anguish of taking another person's life and the isolation that prison adds to a prisoner's soul with its injustices and violence, and life seems one disappointment after another.
I often wonder, will it ever end? It seems never to stop. Family members pass away, disease kills close friends, prison violence and suicide destroy close bonds, and people, places and time fade away as often as the seasons change. All of this is part of life, part of our existence. The question is what is our response when life knocks us on our backs.
My life truly changed the day I met the Sisters of Charity in San Francisco County Jail, almost 15 years ago. Yes, when they asked me if I wanted to go to church, mentally I said, "What God, and why would he help me?"
However, I noticed the two ladies had great big smiles on their faces and a light that emanated from their faces. I felt a sense of love and a sense that I had to go. The service was beautiful. At the end, they handed me a paper heart that said pray to your guardian angel. I have prayed to my guardian angel ever since and have felt, on several occasions, protected during the chaos of prison life.
After that day, and throughout my incarceration, people, mostly total strangers, have come into my life at the perfect time offering their support, love and prayers. It is as if God has sent many angels (messengers) into my life to reveal his truth and his love to me and others.
Every person in my life has touched my heart in a unique and inspiring way, and their prayers are what has kept me alive, physically and spiritually.
Early in my incarceration, I had a visit from a man that I had never met before. We stared at each other through the glass and simultaneously picked up the phone. He instantly started crying. I was not sure why, but I saw great pain and compassion in his eyes as he looked into this kid's eyes that somehow reminded him of his own sons.
He would help me in a lot of ways sharing with me his cross through his love and actions. Our relationship was short but powerful. He soon told me he had cancer and that it was spreading fast. I talked to him every night and he never once complained. One night I called, his wife answered – he was gone.
At any moment in our short existence, a loved one, a close friend, an inspiring person could leave us. Why waste the time we share with these people with gossip, with arguments, with feuds, or idleness? Life is too short to worry about tomorrow or what could happen.
My point is, today is the time to give thanks for the blessings in our life. Today is the time to share a laugh. Today is the time to spend time with someone isolated from the world. Today is the time to say I love you.
Today is the time to mend a relationship. Today is the time to make a difference in your child's life. Today is the time to offer forgiveness. Not tomorrow or next week, today is the time to search our hearts and be thankful and mindful of how much God loves us and how much he has done for us.
For everyone who has ever come into my life, no matter how long our interaction was or whether it was inside or outside of prison, I am grateful for each moment, which is a gift in itself and a blessing from God.
Thank you, and Happy Thanksgiving.
Steven can be reached at:
Steven Nary, P-61614
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A.S.P. 630-2-09 Up
PO BOX 9
Avenal, CA 93204