Hunter Marrow, a reporter at the Ontario, Ore., Argus-Observer, found this prisoner the other day, guy by the name of Michael Johnson. It turns out that Johnson was about to be released from the Snake River Correctional Institution after serving a stint for burglary.
Suffice to say, Hunter saw past that criminal past to something else:
ONTARIO — It’s rare that an inmate gets a parting gift on his last day in prison, but that’s just what happened for one veteran inmate before his release on Tuesday.
Michael Johnson shook hands with Snake River Correctional Institution staff Tuesday morning before receiving his gift. His fiancée, Tina Newson, stood at his side, smiling at the congratulations Johnson was receiving.
It was Johnson’s day of release from the prison, and he received a special farewell gift on his way out: a Quilt of Valor.
You see, there is this group of kind people that makes quilts for returning veterans. Johnson served in the Vietnam War from 1968 to 1971. He was wounded and received a Purple Heart in service to his country before his road turned crooked and Johnson landed in jail.
There are undoubtedly a dozen angles you could take to a story about this man’s life. (How does he have a fiancée? What do his victims think of his release? What is he going to do now?) Hunter chose the Quilts of Valor angle, and if you choose to question that decision, look at that photo again. …
There is a lot of anguish in our business right now. What is our role in modern America? I think Hunter and the people who provided Michael Johnson a quilt on the very day he walked out of prison are showing us a way forward. The forces tearing us apart are already well documented. Rarer are stories emphasizing our common humanity, that bring us together as people with common interests in family, love and mutual well-being.
You want to make a difference? Tear off a slice of life and tell us not how different it looks, but rather how it fits into a coherent whole of our society. You could tell us about prisoners or you could tell a story about one particular man who is coming out into the warm embrace.